Thursday, April 25, 2013

Esoteric Studies, Part 2: Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull

What I've seen, I've seen because I wanted to believe. I…if you look too hard, you can go mad… but if you continue to look, you become liberated, And you become awake, as if from a dream… - Fox Mulder (Patient X, Season 5)

One of the inherent problems with people who explore these areas is the risk of accepting anything at face value, without one’s own inquiry. This has been a concern I have brought up previously. One should have a filter, discern, and accept that if there is enough forensic evidence that something isn’t necessarily true, then it probably isn’t. Why would the subject of crystal skulls hold such appeal? Actually, I think I understand the appeal. Archeologists keep making enough discoveries about ancient civilizations that end up altering our assumptions of those cultures–there are some known gaps in history that haven’t been explained–and it would demonstrate a hubris for any scientist or archeologists to assume that an ancient culture wasn’t more advanced. I don’t mean in the industrialized sense, as we have come to know it, but in the sense of cultures that had knowledge that we only ascribe to coming from western culture. The curiosity with Crystal Skulls speaks to a suspicion many share–that many conventional scientists aren’t giving the public the whole story, or that scientists are so blinded by their own assumptions, or hubris, they ignore data that is right in front of them.

We left the previous piece with the origin of the Mitchell-Hedges skull in question, that the origin had been cited in an anthropological journal which connected it to an art dealer named Sydney Burney, and the fact that Norman Hammond had failed to mention the crystal skull in his book about Lubaantum, which he had excavated, and had argued that the crystal skull had nothing to do with Lubaantum, and had noted “I have always thought it is most likely a memento mori–something designed to remind us that we all must die–of sixteenth to eighteenth century origin. While a Renaissance origin is not improbable, given the sheer size of the rock crystal block involved, manufacture in Quing-dynasty China for a European client cannot be ruled out.” Sotheby’s records show that Sydney Burney had put up the skull for auction in 1943, but since no one had bid no more than 340 pounds for it, Burney kept it, and it was apparently sold to Mitchell-Hedges in 1944 for 400 pounds.

Mitchell-Hedges on one of his expeditions.

Matters were further complicated when Joe Nickell pressed Anna Mitchell-Hedges about the story. She had explained that the skull had been left for security to Burney for a loan to finance an expedition, and that Burney had no right to offer the skull for sale. Yet there was no scrap of evidence to prove that the skull was in the possession of Mitchell-Hedges before 1944. Furthermore, a letter from Sydney Burney, dated March, 21 1933 to someone at the American Museum of Natural History declared that before Burney owned it, the skull was in the possession of the collector from whom Burney bought it, and before that, in the collection of an Englishmen. These disappointing details would confirm the “Mystery” of the skull as a hoax. Yet considering that, less crafted skulls in the British Museum are generally accepted as genuine; for example, the skull found at the Museum Of Man, near Piccadilly Circus in London was purchased from the New York Jeweler Tiffany in 1998 for 120 pounds.

Frank Dorland’s research helped to conclude that the skull was likely a religious object, its purpose was connected to divination, and it was probably kept on an alter. He was informed by friends of Mitchell-Hedges that the skull was brought back from the holy land by the Knights Templar during the crusades, and that it was kept in their inner sanctum in London until it found its way onto the antiques market. Due to the phenomenal success of the Knights Templar from 1118 until their demise in 1307 under the orders of King Philip IV of France who ordered mass arrests and executions, it is likely, due to their practice of ritual magic, as noted by scholars, the Mitchell-Hedges skull might have been one of their many treasures. Yet it will never be known, as King Philip never succeeded in getting his hands on their fabled ‘treasures’ if such a skull was part of their rituals.

Anna Mitchell-Hedges had claimed the skull held mystical properties, and in the seven years that Dorland conducted his research, he did describe hearing sounds of “high-pitched silver bells,” and sounds like an “a capella choir.” Furthermore, Dorland stated, while staring into the skull he saw “…images of other skulls, high mountains, fingers, and faces.” While this could be autosuggestion, the mystical aspects were reinforced by some proponents during a visit from “Satanist” Anton LaVey who called on Dorland with the help of an Oakland, CA newspaper. He visited Dorland, staying so late that the skull was not placed back in its safe deposit box. That night, there were many strange sounds that kept Dorland and his wife awake. When they got up to investigate, they found nothing, yet the next morning they found many of their belongings displaced, and objects moved across the room. Of course some could argue that LaVey, a notorious opportunist, could have engineered the incident to validate the skull had a “satanic” connection. But Dorland had offered his own theory about the incident – that LeVey’s ‘vibes’ and those of the skull conflicted, producing physical effects. This would reinforce Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance argument, a kind of telepathy that Sheldrake believed has always played an active part in evolution. It needs to be noted that skeptics like Joe Nickell and Robert T. Carroll have dismissed Frank Dorland as a mere crystal carver, and freelance art restorer.

Further questions.

Of course, the rest of the story, to cite Paul Harvey, is complicated when you consider the pro and con mechanizations to declare the “Mitchell-Hedges” skull as a ‘hoax,’ as well as efforts that skirt the issue if the Mayan and Aztec cultures could have been more advanced than archeologists generally assume, a hubris of some scholars that one should be vigilant when accessing the merits of this case. It should be noted that Erich von Daniken’s ‘ancient astronaut’ argument in the case of the Mayans and Aztecs also demonstrates a kind of hubris in fairness–there could be a middle ground over how advanced these Pre-Columbian cultures were.

Believers in the idea that the skulls had a connection to Atlantis, in part based this assumption on maps that place Atlantis between the Americas and Europe, as well as psychic comments from Edgar Cayce that described cities in Atlantis being controlled by crystal technology.

Joe Nickell(1) has cited the work of Ian Freestone, which had concluded the skull was likely a fake, apparently fashioned from a lump of poor quality Brazilian crystal. The skull’s cutting and polishing was done at a lapidary in nineteen-century Europe, and the work of Jane Walsh, an archivist at the Smithsonian, who found documents showing that two of the known crystal skulls were sold to the same man, a French collector of Pre-Columbian artifacts, Eugene Boban. The British Museum purchased its skull from Tiffany’s and in turn, which had bought it from Boban. It has also been argued that a possible source for many of the crystal skulls was the renowned gemstone center of Idar and Oberstein in Germany. Scholars have noted that the area underwent a resurgence in the1870s with the shipment of Quartz crystals from Brazil.

While one has to accept these points as likely, I have noted that many skeptics cite Joe Nickell’s work as gospel, or regurgitate Walsh’s and Freestone’s work. I opted to do my own inquiry to help answer several salient questions; could the Aztecs or Mayans have had the skills, Pre-Columbian, to craft with quartz such equivalent skulls? Was there any evidence beyond Pre-Columbian work with ceramics that these cultures were sculpting with quartz? While Mitchell-Hedges’s credibility is questionable, why the overwhelming effort to question the credibility of Eugene Boban, Frank Dorland, and others who have done their own research?

My first efforts were to inquire to an archeology professor about these questions. I found a Professor emeritus from Berkeley’s Anthropology department, 20-years-retired John Graham, that offered some interesting comments about the Mitchell-Hedges skull. Noting that “The Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull is an impressive object of splendid craftsmanship.” The professor further noted that it was in the hands of a Marin County dealer many years ago, and was brought to the professor on several occasions in the hopes of authenticating the piece. He added, “To the best of my knowledge there isn’t even the most minimal evidence of any kind to support a claim of pre-Columbian New World origins.” Personally, he observed he has read Mitchell-Hedges’s publications, and concluded that “the man fabricated all sorts of ridiculous claims for sensational purposes and personal aggrandizement.” The professor also noted that the skull had been examined from a technical standpoint by various reputable specialists, and as far as he was aware, the evidence pointed to a comparatively modern origin. I wasn’t able to pose further inquiries to the professor regarding other nagging questions about the issue of pre-Columbian artisans, and had to look further on my own.

My speculation and question has been: Could such work have been produced by superheating blocks of quartz into a oval shape, then shaping the details while cooling? Quartz crystal melts at 1670 degrees. The most cited civilizations that might have had the means to melt, and have found a way to melt such crystal is Egypt. The most common explanation would be the use of copper saws and fine sand combinations for cutting granite and marble. One anonymous scholar who’s an expert in Mesoamerica, noted that stone construction was usually made of limestone. Another scholar noted that Peru used harder stones: In the Inca capital of Cusco they used stone like andesitic or metamorphosed basalt. Kiln temperatures, for example, in the Peruvian Andes dating from around 800-700 (Middle Cupisnique Period), Batan Grande, ranged between 650 to 800 degrees, which comparatively makes it not likely that the Aztecs or Mayans had the means to melt quartz crystal blocks to the necessary temperatures,(2) which also makes the argument difficult that Pre-Columbian cultures could have had the means to craft such large scale crystal work.

Yet, some conclusions might not be so cut-and-dried when you consider examples of Pre-Columbian work that used crystal. One example would be an Aztec crystal ear spool, and another would be a Huari mosaic mirror circa 650-800 A.D.(3) Nevertheless, there have been arguments that the melting of quartz could have been achieved through the use of mirrors and sunlight as suggested by some. However, researcher Mark Chorvinsky has cited other examples (4) that demonstrate that Pre-Columbians had the skills to manufacture objects out of hard quartz crystal.

There’s a process of elimination that one has to evaluate within the conventional argument that such quartz crystal would have had to come from the mountains of Brazil. There is evidence the Mayans were a seafaring nation,(5) and when you consider that geographically the nations of the Aztecs and Mayans overlap with the continent of Brazil, it becomes plausible that trading routes(6) had been established that would have granted access to the quartz in question.

Philip Coppins (7) has been highly critical of the conventional thinking by most archeologists that the origins of most crystal skulls (8) were post-Columbian. He has argued that most crystal skulls are likely to have originated in Central America and may have performed an important role in re-enacting Mayan creation myths. He has disputed Freestone’s arguments that such artifacts were 19th century European in origin, and has pointed out that Freestone has acknowledged that it doesn’t amount to cast-iron proof. He has also disputed Jane Walsh’s conclusions, pointing out that the skull at the Museum Of Man–Musee de I’Homme–was sold by Boban. Boban was a controversial collector of Pre-Columbian artifacts who ran his business between 1860 to 1880. Though Boban is indeed likely to have placed the skull at Tiffany’s for auction, there was no hard evidence. He disputes her argument that the skulls’ manufacture were German in origin.

“Though Boban was indeed a controversial figure, he was, of course, no different from all the other operators on the antiquities markets in those days–some of whom made deals for treasures such as the Rosetta Stone or the Elgin Marbles that continue to upset entire nations from which they were "exported."

However, there is no evidence–not even circumstantial–that Boban sourced these skulls from Germany. It is logical to conclude that, as Boban operated in Mexico, he may have acquired the skulls in Mexico. It would be completely logical to assume that if they are Aztec in origin, they were offered on the Mexico City antiques market where Boban picked them up. It is the most logical scenario, yet academics seem to prefer the modern German fabrication theory for which there is no evidence. Why? Perhaps they prefer to label them as fakes so as to evade potential claims from Mexican authorities?”

This raises an interesting point; could there be efforts to evade Mexican authorities, or to conclude such items are post-Columbian to skirt around the narrative that suggests that Pre-Columbian cultures could have been more advanced than assumed? Coppin has further argued that Walsh and her colleagues have presented Boban as a charlatan, yet they have failed to report that Boban had owned genuinely ancient artifacts, had written a scientific study–“Documents To Serve The History of Mexico”--and led his own crusade against frauds, such as in 1881 when he spoke out against forgeries that were being made in the suburbs of Mexico City. Coppin also noted that the source for questioning Boban’s credibility came from a single source, a competitor named Wilson Wilberforce Blake. Coppin argues that no clear evidence exists to question Boban’s credibility and that Blake attempted a smear campaign as he was after Boban’s share of the marketplace.

Another silent point that Coppin has made regarding archeological testing that proves such skulls were post-Columbian in origin is as follows:

The problem of the crystal skulls is that they are made of crystal. Quartz crystal does not age; it does not corrode, erode, decay, or change in any way with time. It cannot be carbon-dated. A skull could be hundreds if not thousands of years old, yet still look as if it was made yesterday–and vice versa. Hence, other means of dating had to be devised, and so evidence of skulls having been polished with wheels has become the key determinant of whether they are modern/post-Columbian or "genuine" archaeological artifacts.

While Coppins reviews the new age argument, that such skulls were the constructions of extra-terrestrials, or the remnants of a lost civilization read as Atlantis, or the claim that the skulls’ origin is German, he points out a fourth option: that many of the skulls were indeed pre-Columbian. He cites one skull owned by Norma Redo, as a skull that supports a large crucifix, showing similar “evidence” of wheelwork:

From his analysis, archaeologist Dr. Andrew Rankin argued that the skull was sculpted from the same crystal as that of the crystal goblet from tomb no. 7 at Monte Albán, which is an uncontested archaeological find. Furthermore, the 1571 hallmark on the crucifix is also deemed to be genuine, thus in general excluding the likelihood that this skull is of 19th century European fabrication. In short, this hard evidence confirms what Michael Coe has argued: that the Mayans apparently do seem to have been able to work with crystal...

Further pointing out that in the mid-19th century, English archeologist Sir John Layard excavated the remains of Babylon and Nineveh, where in 1850, during the excavation of the throne room of Assyrian King Sargon II’s place, he discovered a lens that was dated 721-705 BC, and it is considered to be the first used–or found–convex lens. It is indeed extraordinary that such high technology was used in the 8th century BC. As pointed out by Coppins, most archeologists continue to deny the existence of such lenses, or a recent find in the Idaean Cave in Crete of two rock crystal lenses of good optical quality, suggesting that the use of such lenses was widespread throughout the middle east and Mediterranean basin over several Millennia.

Taking into account some of these points, while Mike Mitchell-Hedges might not be credible, the question of the credibility of a number of crystal skulls might not be so easy to conclude. Aside from the argument that their origin was tied to Atlantis or ancient astronauts, it is possible that certain cultures deemed not on par with ancient western based civilizations, could have been more advanced than assumed (9). We simply don’t have concrete evidence as of yet, to alter the assumptions about certain Pre-Columbian New World cultures, but indeed gaps in history continue to surface from time to time that shake the foundations of what is known.

The point of this exercise was to encourage the reader to do their own investigative inquiry on any given subject, and not just passively accept anything from single sources.

The truth of the Mitchell-Hedges skull might not be what many want to hear, but it could be the starting point to raise legitimate questions about the level of technical skills and advances that predominated Ancient civilizations, and how the demise of such cultures could be a learning tool for our future.

Special thanks to XScribe for editorial proofing.
Special thank you to Professor John Graham for his generous attention.


‘The Mammoth Encyclopedia of the Unsolved” by Colin and Damon Wilson, published by Carroll & Graft © 2000


(2) Page 67 / 81 of 437 PDF:

(3) Page 19 / 6 of 34 PDF:


(5) Page 1 of 35, PDF: