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#378496 - 05/28/10 10:08 AM The Skull of Doom
Marty Online   happy
The Skull of Doom
By Jane MacLaren Walsh

The Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull: Fact, fiction, and the creation of myth


Crystal skulls have long had a fringe following, and the most famous of them is one named for the explorer-author Frederick A. Mitchell-Hedges (see “Legend of the Crystal Skulls”). Mitchell-Hedges claimed to have found the skull somewhere in Central America in the 1930s, but his adopted daughter Anna later said she found it under a fallen altar or inside a pyramid at the Maya site of Lubaantún in British Honduras (now Belize) some time in the 1920s. Neither of their contradictory accounts is true. In fact, like all the other crystal skulls thus far examined, it is a modern creation, despite its nearly mythical place in the minds of devotees.


Front view of skull (James Di Loreto/Courtesy Smithsonian Institution)

I have had two opportunities to examine the Mitchell-Hedges skull closely and to take silicone molds of carved and polished elements of it, which I have analyzed under high-power light and scanning-electron microscopes. I have also evaluated the documentary evidence, newspaper stories about Mitchell-Hedges, his memoirs Land of Wonder and Fear (1931) and Danger My Ally (1954), and a file of letters and documents that Anna Mitchell-Hedges sent to Frederick Dockstader, the director of the Museum of the American Indian in New York City, which I recently found.

The microscopic evidence presented here indicates that the skull is not a Maya artifact but was carved with high-speed, modern, diamond-coated lapidary tools. The historical record shows it first appeared in London in 1933 and was purchased a decade later by Mitchell-Hedges, who claimed the crystal skull was an authentic pre-Columbian artifact. The newly found archival evidence suggests Anna was later involved in the evolution of tall tales about the skull’s origins, providing a fascinating look at the creation of a popular mythology in service of a profitable business venture.


Under the Microscope
Following up on my initial study, which included examining the skull under a high-powered light microscope, under ultraviolet light, and computerized tomography (CT scan) to determine what we could without harming the object in any way, I also took two sets of silicone molds of surface tool marks for eventual SEM analysis. Read the full story...


Acquisition History
You possibly saw in the papers that I acquired that amazing Crystal Skull that was formerly in the “Sydney Burney Collection.” It is fashioned from a single block of transparent rock crystal, exactly life size; scientists put the date at pre-1800 B.C. Read the full story...


Fictionalized History
Mitchell-Hedges claimed he found it when he led a British expedition to uncover traces of the lost Maya civilization in Central America in the 1930s. The skull, he said, had been taken by the high priest into the depths of the temple where he concentrated on it and willed Death. Read the full story...


Just the Facts
Anna’s stories of finding the crystal skull under an altar at Lubaantun, or inside a deep hole or cave beneath or inside of the pyramid, were her own inventions, starting in 1964, as part of a joint promotion of the skull in which she engaged the assistance of Frank Dorland. Read the full story...


Analysis of the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull using SEM leaves little doubt that this object was carved and polished using modern, high-speed, diamond-coated, rotary, cutting and polishing tools of minute dimensions. This technology is certainly not pre-Columbian. I believe it is decidedly 20th century. The similarities between the Mitchell-Hedges skull and the British Museum skull suggest that the former is an improved copy of the latter. The recently published SEM study of the British Museum skull additionally suggests it was probably carved within a decade of the date it was first offered for sale in 1881 (Sax, Walsh, et al. 2008: p. 2759). It is not unreasonable to conclude that the Mitchell-Hedges skull, which first appeared in 1933, was also created within short time of its debut.


Anna Mitchell-Hedges in 1980, holding the “Skull of Doom” above the British Museum’s crystal skull (Courtesy Jane M. Walsh)

Frederick A. Mitchell-Hedges began an association with a California art dealer named Frank Dorland in the 1950s to promote and sell an icon he called the Black Virgin of Kazan, which later turned out to be a copy. Anna Mitchell-Hedges continued this relationship after her father died in 1959, ultimately agreeing to Dorland’s proposal to “launch a program about the [crystal] Skull and get your price” (11/25/1963). A number of wildly speculative publications resulted from this promotion. One, Phrenology (1970), suggested the skull had belonged to the Knights Templar and was taken to British Honduras by Mitchell-Hedges. Another, Ambrose Bierce, F.A. Mitchell-Hedges and the Crystal Skull (1973), claimed that Bierce, a journalist who disappeared in Mexico in 1913, and Mitchell-Hedges had stolen the skull when they were both fighting alongside Pancho Villa. Later, Dorland hired the novelist Richard Garvin to write The Crystal Skull that had Anna Mitchell-Hedges herself discovering the skull inside of a Maya pyramid at Lubanntun. Eventually, I believe that Anna attempted to legitimize this object through its exhibition in a respected museum—the Museum of the American Indian.


Using microscopic analyses and newly discovered archival documents, Smithsonian anthropologist Jane Walsh has revealed the Mitchell-Hedges skull to be a modern creation about which a mythology was deliberately spun. (James Di Loreto/Courtesy Smithsonian Institution)

The correspondence between Frederick Dockstader, director of the Museum of the American Indian, and Anna Mitchell-Hedges clearly demonstrates how the process of legitimizing objects with potential mass appeal but dubious authenticity and provenience works. In their letters, each seemed to flatter the other to achieve their own separate, though similar, ends: to increase visitation to the museum and to enhance the status of the crystal skull.

Despite the Museum of the American Indian director’s long-held suspicions about the skull, not to mention the warnings from well-meaning colleagues, the Mitchell-Hedges skull was, in fact, exhibited in New York for an extended run. That exhibition endowed the skull with a legitimacy that it had not had previously. Following the exhibition and the publication of the Garvin book in 1973, the Skull of Doom’s owner launched her long career as keeper of the ever more mysterious object, whose extraordinary powers, like her father’s claims and collections, grew and grew and grew.

In Danger My Ally, Frederick Mitchell-Hedges warned that the skull was “the embodiment of all evil” and that “several people who have cynically laughed at it have died, others have been stricken and become seriously ill” (1954: p. 240). Clearly, we should not believe everything we read, and, ultimately, we must be brave and tell the truth. The Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull is not ancient; not even very old. It was probably made in Europe in the 20th century, and was not polished for five generations. It is not powerful, not scary and not at all what it purports to be.


Jane MacLaren Walsh is an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Using her expertise in Mexican archaeological collections, she is seeking to understand how museum collections are formed, and what artifacts, including fake artifacts, can tell us about the evolution of our knowledge and understanding of other cultures.

#378534 - 05/28/10 04:02 PM Re: The Skull of Doom [Re: Marty]
papashine Offline
To bad, I loved the thought that it was genuine. Nothing like ruining a good story with the facts.
Reality..What a concept!

#378716 - 05/31/10 12:27 PM Re: The Skull of Doom [Re: papashine]
Nancy1340 Offline
Very dissapointing. I remember as a young girl reading about this and dreaming about the adventures that Anna must have had in her life. Well I guess she did have some adventures but it's sad to read this one was false.

Still a beautiful piece of art work.

#386882 - 09/02/10 10:12 AM Re: The Skull of Doom [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

The Crystal Skull of Belize

vacation in belizeThe Crystal Skull was found in Belize and should be in one of our Museums here, but as far as we know it is still out the country, hopefully one day we will get it back as it is a big part of history and in my opinion, almost forgotten.

The most famous crystal skull is the Mitchell-Hedges “skull of doom” allegedly discovered by a 17-year old Anna Mitchell-Hedges in 1924 or 1927 while accompanying her adoptive father on an excavation of the ancient Mayan city of Lubaantun in Belize. Because of its small size and other characteristics, it is thought more closely to resemble a female skull and this has led some to refer to the Mitchell-Hedges skull as a “she.” The Mitchell-Hedges skull is made of clear quartz crystal, and both cranium and mandible are believed to have come from the same solid block. It weighs 11.7 pounds and is about five inches high, five inches wide, and seven inches long. Except for slight anomalies in the temples and cheekbones, it is a virtually anatomically correct replica of a human skull.

The Mitchell-Hedges family loaned the skull to Hewlett-Packard Laboratories for extensive study in 1970. Art restorer Dr. Frank Dorland oversaw the testing at the Santa Clara, California, computer equipment manufacturer, a leading facility for crystal research. The HP examinations yielded some startling results.

Researchers found that the skull had been carved against the natural axis of the crystal. Modern crystal sculptors always take into account the axis, or orientation of the crystal’s molecular symmetry, because if they carve “against the grain,” the piece is bound to shatter — even with the use of lasers and other high-tech cutting methods.

To compound the strangeness, HP could find no microscopic scratches on the crystal which would indicate it had been carved with metal instruments. Dr. Dorland’s best hypothesis for the skull’s construction is that it was roughly hewn out with diamonds, and then the detail work was meticulously done with a gentle solution of silicon sand and water. The exhausting job, assuming it could possibly be done in this way would have required man-hours adding up to 300 years to complete.

New-agers have associated the skulls with the belief that the Mayan “Long Count” calendar runs out on Dec. 21, 2012, when it reaches the end of a 5,126-year cycle. According to this theory, all 13 skulls must be reunited and lined up together to prevent the world from falling off its axis.

Is the Mayan 2012 Doomsday real or just a fantasy? end of the world 2012

This interesting legend connects 13 original Skulls to the Maya Calendar’s b’ak’tun-cycle. This is the Mayan Long Count which ends at The current cycle ends on 21.12.2012 or on 23.12.2012. According to the Mayans our existing world will end on that day.

There are different opinions all over, if this is a real “End Of The World” or a transition to new spiritual level. According to Mayans there have been several end of the world events due to natural disasters. This latest Apocalypse on 21.12.2012 would be due to man’s own actions.

The “13 Skull Theory” is that all the 13 skulls scattered around the world will be united to pass us knowledge and enlightenment which will help us to stop the Apocalypse happening on 21.12.2012

The World Will Not End – The Debate Begins!

They say that the world will end in December 2012, but the Mayan elders are angry with this. The world will not end. It will be transformed.

Many of the Elders have publicly stated that “Anthropologists visit the temple sites and read the steles and inscriptions and make up stories about the Maya, but they do not read the signs correctly. It’s just their imagination, other people write about prophecy in the name of the Maya. They say that the world will end in December 2012. The indigenous have the calendars, and know how to accurately interpret it, not others.”

Carlos Barrios was born into a Spanish family on El Altiplano, the highlands of Guatemala. His home was in Huehuetenango, also the dwelling place of the Maya Mam tribe.

With other Maya and other indigenous tradition keepers, the Mam carry part of the old ways on Turtle Island (North America). They are keepers of time, authorities on remarkable calendars that are ancient, elegant and relevant. Mr. Barrios is a historian, an anthropologist and investigator. After studying with traditional elders for 25 years since the age of 19, he has also became a Mayan Ajq’ij, a ceremonial priest and spiritual guide, Eagle Clan. Years ago, along with his brother, Gerardo, Carlos initiated an investigation into the different Mayan calendars. He studied with many teachers. He says his brother Gerardo interviewed nearly 600 traditional Mayan elders to widen their scope of knowledge.

Mr. Barrios says, we have been in a time when the right arm of the materialistic world is disappearing, slowly but inexorably. We are at the cusp of the era when peace begins, and people live in harmony with Mother Earth. We are no longer in the World of the Fourth Sun, but we are not yet in the World of the Fifth Sun. This is the time in-between, the time of transition. As we pass through transition there is a colossal, global convergence of environmental destruction, social chaos, war, and ongoing Earth changes. All this, Mr. Barrios says, was foreseen via the simple, spiral mathematics of the Mayan calendars.

“It will change,” Mr. Barrios observes. “Everything will change.” He said Mayan Daykeepers view the Dec. 21, 2012 date as a rebirth, the start of the World of the Fifth Sun. It will be the start of a new era resulting from and signified by the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator, and the earth aligning itself with the center of the galaxy. At sunrise on December 21, 2012 for the first time in 26,000 years the Sun rises to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. This cosmic cross is considered to be an embodiment of the Sacred Tree, The Tree of Life, a tree remembered in all the world’s spiritual traditions. Some observers say this alignment with the heart of the galaxy in 2012 will open a channel for cosmic energy to flow through the earth, cleansing it and all that dwells upon it, raising all to a higher level of vibration.

This process has already begun, Mr. Barrios suggested. “Change is accelerating now, and it will continue to accelerate.” If the people of the earth can get to this 2012 date in good shape, without having destroyed too much of the Earth, Mr. Barrios said, we will rise to a new, higher level. But to get there we must transform enormously powerful forces that seek to block the way.


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