May 23, 2008
Study: Crystal Skulls are Fake
Public interest in the mysterious crystal skulls has been reawakened by the newest Indiana Jones film, but a new study claims that those found in the British Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC are fake.
Writing in the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers found that the skulls were created with tools that weren't available to ancient Aztecs or Mayans.
Margaret Sax, from the British Museum in London, and Professor Ian Freestone, from Cardiff University, and their colleagues used sophisticated techniques to determine the two skulls' origin.
"There are about a dozen or more of these crystal skulls. Except for the British Museum skull and one in Paris, they seem to have entered public awareness since the 60s, with the interest in quartz and the New Age movement," Professor Freestone said.
"It does appear that people have been making them since then. Some of them are quite good, but some of them look like they were produced with a Black & Decker in someone's garage."
"There seems to be the assumption that if it is roughly worked, it is more likely to have been made by a traditional society. That's untrue of course, because people were quite sophisticated. They might not have had modern tools, but they did a good job."
Through using an electron microscope, researchers were able to determine that the skulls were created using rotary wheel technology, which was almost certainly not used by pre-Columbian societies. Instead, they were crafted using tools made from stone and wood.
X-ray diffraction analysis showed that carborundum, a synthetic abrasive material, which only came into use in the 20th Century, was involved in the making of the artifact from the Smithsonian.
Professor Freestone said that evidence points to the skull being made during the 1950s or even later.
Although the maker of the skulls is still unknown, some researchers still believe that Eugene Boban, a 19th Century French antiquities dealer, is to blame for the one housed in the British Museum.
"We assume that he bought it from, or had it made from [craftsmen] somewhere in Europe," said Professor Freestone, a former deputy keeper of science and conservation at the British Museum.
The London skull was probably manufactured no more than a decade before being offered up for sale.
A spokeswoman for the British Museum said the skull would remain on permanent display.
The skull held by the Smithsonian was donated to the museum anonymously in 1992, along with a note saying it had been bought in Mexico in 1960.
Nothing is known of its history before that date, but like the British object, it was probably manufactured shortly before being purchased, experts said.
Image Courtesy British Museum
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Journal of Archaeological Science