How science debunked the ancient Aztec crystal skull hoax

Mar 06, 2013

They may have gained fame in the Steven Spielberg adventure film "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," but those quartz-crystal skulls that once ranked as a great enigma of archaeology are certifiably fake. And the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, (C&EN) the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, recalls the details of their rise and fall.

In the article, Sarah Everts, C&EN's European science correspondent, delves back into history, explaining that the skull sculptures—supposedly crafted before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century—began appearing on the art market in the 1860s. They graced collections of institutions as renowned as the British Museum in London, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris and Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution.

Experts began doubting the authenticity of the as long ago as the 1930s. Everts describes how experts at those three museums have used scientific instruments to show that the skulls are post-Columbian fakes. French antiquities dealer Eugène Boban played a major role in sparking public fascination with the skulls by getting some of the first fakes placed in major museums.

The article is titled "Crystal Skulls Deemed Fake."

Explore further: Researchers discover new method to convert CO2 to a valuable organic compound

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mexico finds 50 skulls in sacred Aztec temple

Oct 06, 2012

(AP)—Mexican archaeologists said Friday they uncovered the largest number of skulls ever found in one offering at the most sacred temple of the Aztec empire dating back more than 500 years.

Dinosaur skull changed shape during growth

Mar 31, 2010

The skull of a juvenile sauropod dinosaur, rediscovered in the collections of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History, illustrates that some sauropod species went through drastic changes in skull shape ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lilly Anne
not rated yet Mar 06, 2013
ACS articles are usually quite decent. This one was. I've heard countless episodes of Coast2CoastAM that mention the crystal skulls. Always seemed unlikely to me.
I'm not surprised that they weren't authentic pre-Columbian in age, nor origin. I *am* surprised that some were as old as they are though. I would have thought they were all like that one that was mailed in anonymously to The Smithsonian. It was made in the 1950's or so. Of course, I haven't seen photos of all the skulls, merely a few, probably the more recent ones.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.