from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
One evening not so long ago I happened to watch a TV programme about crystal skulls. I do not take much interest in them and I even do not own one, thought I did watch that movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Domed Skulls, or something like that. That TV show was in the current style of “debunking” things in a would-be scientific fashion. One wonders why the TV producers enjoy “debunking” more or less harmless myths while ignoring by far the most damaging one of the recent times, namely the Anthropogenic Global Warming. Money, I suppose.
[Aside: One day, inshallah, I will write on the subject of AGW and the misleading CAGW]
The skulls in question, almost objects of art, are carved from quartz and the best known one, shown here, is quite impressive. When, where and how they were made was of no relevance to me, but for one thing. As the “debunkers” presented their argument, a significant part thereof was a claim that the scientific examination shows that a technique, not known at the time, i.e. pre-Columbian, was used. Therefore, since it is not hand, but mechanically polished, it is a modern, c. 1860, fake. However, I recalled something I read recently, and luckily, I was able to find it:
“Using a technique for analyzing friction in industrial equipment, a group of French and Turkish scientists have unraveled the process that was used approximately 10,000 years ago to make a highly polished obsidian bracelet. The team examined a bracelet fragment from Aşikli Höyük in Turkey at different levels of magnification and saw evidence of three stages of production – pecking, grinding and polishing. Striations on the bracelet indicate that a mechanical device may have been used to achieve its regularized shape and glossy finish.. It is the earliest evidence of such a sophisticated stone-working technique.” Archaeology – June 2012 p.12
I often marvel how contemptuous the scientists are of the technical abilities of pre-historic and even historic people. If they can not comprehend it, it must be some religious ritual. (See Fog of Chaos – Ritual hubris) Sigmund Freud would have a field day with them.
I know that Turkey is some distance from Belize. However, archaeological record is scanty and should, by some chance, an unlucky archaeologist found some evidence of mechanical polishing in pre-colombian times somewhere in Americas, she or he would be howled down by the PC (not pre-Columbian, but politically correct) establishment.
Thus the whole, relatively insignificant matter, attracted my attention. Its significance, in my humble opinion, lies in the exposition of the creeping corruption in science and already well established corruption in so called science reporting.
[I also note that women seems to be more involved. Are they more predisposed than men to follow the herd? Again, inshallah, I will write about this phenomena]
Thus I started reading some more. The internet is full of articles about crystal skulls and, unless these are your only interest, are just far too numerous to read. I picked some; and in not too serious and not too “scientific” fashion I amused myself by attempting to debunk the debunkers.
Crystal Skulls Deemed Fake
By Sarah Everts
Here we go again, a woman.
Humans seem to have a predilection for fake quartz-crystal Aztec skulls. Since the 1860s, dozens of skull sculptures have appeared on the art market purporting to be pre-Columbian artefacts from Mesoamerica, that is, created by the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America prior to Spanish exploration and conquest in the 16th century. Three such skulls have graced the collections of major museums on both sides of the Atlantic: the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the British Museum in London, and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.
As early as the 1930s, some experts began to have doubts about the authenticity of the skulls, says Margaret Sax,
a conservation scientist at the British Museum. But for a long time researchers “didn’t have the scientific means to follow up” on their hunches, she adds. Over the past two decades researchers at all three museums have capitalized on analytical science innovations to show that these peculiar skulls are not unusual Aztec artifacts but post-Columbian fakes.
Nowadays the market for crystal skulls is limited to Indiana Jones fans, New Age devotees, and people in the goth and punk subcultures. But in the 1860s, when the skulls appeared on the market, many people in Europe sported little skeletons on rings, pendants, or other personal trinkets to remind them of their own mortality,
I do not remember that.
says Jane Walsh,
an archaeologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It was a French dealer named Eugène Boban
who capitalized on this fascination with the macabre, as well as Europe’s growing interest in and ignorance of Mesoamerican artifacts, to slip some of the first sham skulls into museums.
Walsh has traced fake crystal skulls at the British Museum and the Quai Branly Museum back to Boban, who sold them to art dealers who then sold them to the museums more than 100 years ago.
So she knew they were fake before she was motivated to contact the British Museum? A typical modern scientist.
The Smithsonian skull, however, showed up in the mail in 1992, as an anonymous donation. Its arrival motivated Walsh to contact the British Museum to discuss the skulls. That conversation catalyzed the scientific and historical research that finally proved the objects were phonies.
The British and American team were particularly suspicious of the skulls because they hadn’t come from documented archaeological sites.
This is plainly idiotic. Archaeology developed out of antiquarianism only during the 19th century. Everything found before then is suspect?
And something was wrong with the skulls’ teeth. Although skulls do appear as motifs in Aztec art, most representations of teeth in authentic pieces reflect the dentistry—or lack thereof—of the time. The teeth in the suspect skulls seemed too linear, too perfect, Sax explains.
The perfect teeth in the Aztec mask, right, thus undoubtedly show it is a fake. Furthermore, if we assume that the skull is somehow mythical, it would not necessarily represent an ordinary human skull, but a skull of some god. What does Sax knows about godly dentistry?
So the team took a closer look at the skulls’ surfaces. As a benchmark, they borrowed a legitimate
Legitimate in this context obviously means a consensus of officially approved ‘scientists”.
Mesoamerican crystal goblet from the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, in Mexico. Then they used scanning electron microscopy to compare these surfaces.
It turns out that the surface of the authentic goblet has irregular etch marks, a sign that the pieces were carved with hand-held tools. But the surface of the suspect skulls have regular etch marks, evidence that they were made with rotary wheels and hard abrasives, which appeared only after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Walsh says.
I dealt with this before.
Looking even closer at the British Museum’s skull, the team discovered green, wormlike inclusions in the rock. Raman spectroscopy revealed that the inclusions were an iron-rich chlorite mineral. Although this kind of trace impurity is found in rock crystal from Brazil or Madagascar, it is not found in Mexican crystal, Walsh says.
How often is Mexican quartz tested by “Raman spectroscopy” for “iron-rich chlorite mineral”?
If we, for the sake of the argument, accept that this supposedly Aztec skull was found in what is now Belize, it does not necessarily follows that it was made there and from the local material. A chunk of clear quartz of the required size would be, I guess, rare in Brazil, Madagascar or elsewhere. The usual setting up a straw man and demolishing him, albeit dishonestly, is the modern science.
The team also noticed a small deposit of something curious in the Smithsonian’s skull. By using X-ray diffraction they discovered the deposit was silicon carbide, a synthetic abrasive used in stone-carving workshops only starting in the mid-20th century. This damning residue revealed the Smithsonian skull had likely been made mere decades before the anonymous donor sent the skull by mail, Walsh says.
Just a reminder that this is a skull which turned up in 1992 in – America.
As the British Museum and Smithsonian researchers began amassing evidence in the 1990s and 2000s that the skulls in their collections were certainly not of Aztec origin, museum staff at the Quai Branly Museum decided to scrutinize a crystal skull and a human head sculpture in their collection. Both objects were acquired through the controversial
Controversial here and a criminal a few paragraphs later. Ms Sarah Everts will go far in “scientific” journalism.
dealer Boban, and both were purported to be pre-Columbian.
The crystal skull at the Quai Branly Museum, like the fakes at the Smithsonian and British Museum, had a suspiciously perfect set of teeth, whereas the head had more realistic human features, the French researchers noted in a 2009 report (Appl. Phys. A, DOI: 10.1007/s00339-008-5018-9).
The French team dated the two objects using a noninvasive method that measures how deep water penetrates into rock objects. The method relies on shooting helium ions at an object’s surface and analyzing the interaction of the ion beam with the hydrogen in water at increasing depths in the sculpture.
Elastic Recoil Detection Analysis
Then the water penetration is compared with samples of known ages. They found that the crystal skull had likely been made after the Spanish conquest, whereas the anthropomorphic head was likely made in pre-Columbian times.
The report costs $39.95, so I read only the abstract. But it is suspect.
The fact that one of the Boban-sourced artifacts at the Quai Branly Museum is fake whereas the other is probably a legitimate pre-Columbian artifact speaks to the dealer’s fascinating and controversial role in the movement of Mesoamerican artifacts in the late-19th century. Boban initially left France to join California’s gold rush, but after failing to strike it rich, he went to Central America and began exporting Mayan and Aztec artifacts, says Walsh, who is writing a book about him.
Writing a book? Appearing in TV programmes? What a surprise.
“Most of the objects he sold were legitimate,” she says. “But his big-ticket items were for the most part fake.” A century after his crimes,
Crimes? Ms Sarah Everts got him convicted on no evidence at all. There does not seem to be any connection between M. Boban and the “Smithsonian” skull.
modern analytical chemistry continues to help museum researchers separate Boban’s bona fide pieces from the bogus.
Often it is difficult to separate bona fide articles from the bogus. It may be written, but it ain’t necessarily so.
Intriguing, mysterious and eerie, they are real works of art. The crystal skulls have been of great interest to archaeologists and anthropologists who are curious about their existence and purpose. Why would so much work and time be spent on perfecting a human skull made out of one of the hardest substances known to man after diamonds, rock crystal? The cutting of which requires great expertise and precision and the carving and polishing of which is equally time-consuming? In other words, why a skull?
It is not something that one finds in ancient paintings or carvings, which have all sorts of deities and exotic creatures of fantasy and folklore. Why would anyone want to carve a skull out of clear or milky quartz?
Anyhow, humans are a strange and complex species to say the least and have been around for thousands of centuries so one never knows what they might have been up to in the past. But what some scientists and sceptics say about these skulls is that they were probably made in the 1800s, as the tools used or required to do such work were not available to the civilisations of the past.
But then there are many that still claim these specimens to be the channels of ancient knowledge and were made for a very special reason. To delve a little into the mystery of the crystal skulls, let’s see how they were discovered and the legends attached to them.
Many perfect skulls were found in parts of central and South America and Mexico. Mainly believed to be of Mayan or Aztec origin, there are believed to be 13 of these skulls made and then later scattered all over the globe. They were part of rituals and ceremonies and are supposed to hold knowledge regarding the history of the human race and civilisation. The first and the most famous is the Mitchell Hedges skull discovered by the archaeologist in 1927 during an archaeological dig at an ancient Mayan site in the tropical jungle of Yucatan also known as Belize.
After burning 33 hectares of thick forestation, the area revealed a huge stone pyramid, walls of a city and an amphitheatre, which could seat thousands of spectators. The site was called ‘Lubaantun’ or ‘The Place of the Fallen Stones’. The story goes that when Mitchell Hedges returned to the site after three years, his daughter Anna Mitchell was with him and she discovered the skull under the ruins of an alter.
The story was later refuted as it came to light that Anna had not accompanied her father on that expedition but that Mitchell Hedges had bought the skull at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London. However, Anna stuck to her story till she died at the age of 100 in 2007. Anna claimed that she had several dreams regarding ceremonies and rituals performed by the ancient Mayans whenever the skull was in her bedroom at night.
She also gave the skull for scientific examination to Hewlett Packard. The findings were quite puzzling. The skull had been carved with diamonds and then smoothened with a solution made out of silicon sand and water. But the strangest part was that the entire workings were done against the “axis” of the crystal. This means that whenever a piece of crystal or quartz is cut, it has to be done according to the axis formed by the molecular structure of the rock. Going against it would shatter the entire piece. So how was this done in the first place?
Then we have the other skulls found in other sources. There is the British skull and the Paris crystal skull. They are said to have been bought in the 1890s by mercenaries in Mexico. One is at the London’s Museum of Mankind and the other is at the Trocadero Museum of Paris.
The Mayan and the Amethyst skull were bought to the United States by a Mayan priest. They were found in Guatemala and Mexico. They were both tested and were found to have also been cut against the axis of the rocks. Then we have MAX, the Texas skull, which was in the possession of a Tibetan healer, Norbu Chen, who gave it to Carl and Jo Parks against a debt.
It was only after Jo found out that the skull was of archaeological interest worldwide that she took it out of her closet and had it examined by an expert. It was indeed found to be ancient. Another crystal skull enthusiast Joke Van Dieten Maasland has a smoky quartz crystal skull, which was discovered in 1906 during the excavation of a Mayan temple in Guatemala. Joke states that the skull has healing powers and helped heal a brain tumour in a book she has written titled, Messengers of Ancient Wisdom.
The skull is named E.T. because it has a pointed head and an exaggerated jaw with an overbite, which makes it look like it an alien-shaped head.
The rose quartz crystal skull is very much like the Mitchell Hedges skull and was found near the border of Honduras and Guatemala. Its lower jaw is movable just like the above mentioned one.
The Aztec skull that is at the Museum of Man in London has been said to move on its own inside its glass case and museum staff seem uncomfortable around it. The Sha-Na-Ra, Jaguar Man and Rainbow skulls have all been unearthed at ancient sites according to researchers.
Are these skulls really the ancient showcases of human wisdom and hold powerful knowledge or as scientists say, just clever fakes? But the only thing is that a “fake” is a replica of the original. And whoever made these bafflingly mysterious crystal skulls and for whatever purpose, has left a big question, the answer to which is really not ‘crystal’ clear.