Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crystal Skulls

crytal skull
Crystal Skull from Wikipedia

Every so often we deviate from the Keystone path, and this post takes one of those side trips. After watching History and Sci-Fi Channel programs about Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls, we thought we'd see whassup with them. Here's the H&H answer, based on an AP article and our crackerjack research skills (i.e., Google), with a link to a meatier story below:

The legend goes that the ancient Maya possessed 13 crystal skulls which, when united, hold the power of saving the Earth.

New-agers have linked the skulls to the Maya "Long Count" calendar that ends on December 21, 2012, when it reaches the final day of a 5,126-year cycle. According to the tale, all 13 skulls must be reunited and lined up together to prevent the world from falling off its axis.

Don't laugh. It could happen, and already has once. Recent work by geologists Adam Maloof of Princeton and Galen Halverson of Paul Sabatier University found that the north pole shifted more than 50 degrees (about the distance between Alaska and the equator) some 800 million years ago during the Precambrian time period. But it took about 20 million years to wander that far afield. Science is often stranger than spooks. But back to the skulls.

They were hidden all over the earth by the wily Mayan priests. Seven are believed found and in private or institutional collections, with another half dozen yet to be discovered. The catch - mankind must be morally and mentally ready to use them in our time of need. That's a tough one, given our current track record.

Others believe that they act like crystal balls and you can see images of the past and future in them. Some think they are ET or Atlantean communication devices, like computer chips, that hold our origins, history and perhaps destiny, but that humans can't quite figure out how to turn them on yet. There are those that claim the skulls are powerful physical and spiritual healing tools.

Experts dismiss the hundreds of existing crystal skulls as fakes that were probably made by shady antiquities traders in the 19th century. But Mayan priests worship the skulls, even today, and real-life skull hunters still search for them. Go figure.

The story of the skulls stretches over continents and many decades, and may even hold more twists and turns than the tale portrayed by Indiana Jones, while every bit as mercenary.

Few of today's crystal skulls can be dated any further back than the 1860s, when Europe was swept by a rage for pre-Hispanic "relics."

Frenchman Eugene Boban, a colorful rascal with a checkered past and murky political ties, set up a store to supply the relics market after the French invaded Mexico. Eventually he carted his skulls to New York, Paris and Mexico City, selling them to private collectors.

Buyers were told that the skulls were made by the Mayas, whose civilization peaked between 300 and 900 A.D. But no crystal skull has ever been excavated from a documented Mesoamerican archaeological dig. Caveat emptor, hey?

Some believe the skulls can emit and focus light, project visions, heal, and even influence natural forces. Today, these beliefs persist in the jungles of southern Mexico among the Lacandon, the last of the Mayas, some of whom still worship the skulls. Even they don't know where they came from originally.

Thousands of miles away in Washington, Jane MacLaren Walsh keeps one of the skulls in her office at the Smithsonian Institution. She doubts the ancient Mayans ever worshipped any such skulls.

An anthropologist and antiquities sleuth, she has spent more than a decade studying the better known skulls, like the ones acquired by the British Museum and Paris' Quai Branly museum over a century ago, as well as the Smithsonian's own skull.

She says they are artistically unlike pre-Hispanic depictions of death's heads, and often show microscopic markings from fairly modern cutting tools.

"None of them is ancient," Walsh said. About their touted powers, she notes wryly: "I've been sitting in fairly close proximity to one of the skulls for about 16 years, and I have not witnessed anything like what people say."

The British Museum keeps a skull in its collection largely as a curiosity, listing its pedigree as "probably European, 19th century."

It's possible that the near-human sized fakes may have been inspired by two real crystal skulls now on display at Mexico City's renowned National Anthropology Museum. One was purchased in 1874 for 28 pesos by the museum from Mexican collector Luis Costantino, and another for 30 pesos in 1880.

Much smaller and less perfectly carved than the ones held at the museums in Europe, these jewelry-sized trinkets, about an inch in height and made of milky rather than clear crystal, are in the Aztec and Oaxaca collections. The museum classifies them as either late pre-Hispanic or early colonial.

These smaller crystal skulls may have been genuine Mesoamerican beads that were later carved into a skull shape. They might also reflect Latino Catholic culture. At least one skull has been found attached to the base of a crucifix, that being the Catholic symbolism for Golgotha, the "place of the skull." Or they could just be macabre jewelry. Quetzelcoatl and the gang ain't telling.

At least those skulls are the real McCoys, originally used as necklace pendants and ornaments by the natives in one form or another. They may have been the height of Maya chic, but supernatural...well, we'll find out in a few years - 2012, to be exact.

This tale was taken from CNN.
Here's an article by Skeptoid regarding the skulls.

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