Chemistry of the crystal skulls confirms their fake origin

Margaret Sax, conservation scientist at the British Museum, and Jane Walsh, archaeologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, have worked together to study the lengendary crystal skulls from Central America, supposedly made before the Spanish exploration of the continent.

Crystal Skulls Deemed Fake.

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. 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. 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 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.

Science. It works to solve mysteries. We already knew they were not relics of ancient wisdom with magical powers. I’d like those who still think these things are genuine something-or-other will stop it. But they won’t.

Photo credit: James Di Loreto/Smithsonian Institution

Photo credit: James Di Loreto/Smithsonian Institution

Crystal skull – The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com.

Crystal Skulls: Legend, Vodka & Indiana Jones | LiveScience.

Riddle of the Crystal Skulls – CSI.

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  5 comments for “Chemistry of the crystal skulls confirms their fake origin

  1. March 6, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Now I feel like watching House II.

  2. One Eyed Jack
    March 6, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    You’re right. This will have zero effect on believers.

  3. RDW
    March 6, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Those skulls had had me spooked a bit. It’s good that a rational explanation has come out.

  4. Gary
    March 7, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    They’ve been known to be fakes for quite a while now.

  5. Flucksy
    March 9, 2013 at 12:35 AM

    I remember first reading about these in a small book back in elementary school. It’s a sham their origin was so bland. I always knew they didn’t do anything, but I hoped it was at least interesting.

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