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Skulls are humanity's foremost symbol of death, and a powerful icon in the visual vocabularies of cultures all over the globe. Thirteen crystal skulls of apparently ancient origin have been found in parts of Mexico, Central America and South America, comprising one of the most fascinating subjects of 20th Century archaeology.
These skulls, found near the ancient ruins of Mayan and Aztec civilizations (with some evidence linking the skulls with past civilization in Peru) are a mystery as profound as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Nazca Lines of Peru, or Stonehenge. Some of the skulls are believed to be between 5,000 and 36,000 years old.
Many indigenous people speak of their remarkable magical and healing properties, but nobody really knows where they came from or what they were used for.
Were they left behind after the destruction of a previous world, such as Atlantis? Are they simply ingenious modern fakes or can they really enable us to see deeply into the past and predict the future?
Much research is currently being done on the skulls. However, their origin is still a baffling mystery. They seem to defy logic. Everything that is known about lapidary work indicates that the skulls should have been shattered fractured, or fallen apart when carved.
Origin Theories: Celestial Gifts or Skullduggery?
Regardless of any unearthly properties the crystal skulls may or may not possess, the question remains: where did they come from? There are countless hypotheses that they are the legacy of some higher intelligence. Many believe they were created by extraterrestrials or beings in Atlantis or Lemuria. One elaborate theory maintains that the skulls were left behind by a sophisticated Inner Earth society which lives at the hollow center of our planet, and there are thirteen "master skulls" which contain the history of these people.
The most obvious answer to the mystery is that native artisans in Latin America or elsewhere crafted the skulls themselves. The Mayans are most often associated with them, although some doubt that they could have made the skulls, and not simply because of the technical conundrum the job poses. One theory holds the Aztecs as a more likely candidate to have created them. Skull imagery figures prominently in Aztec art and religious symbols, and not in that of the Mayans. The Aztecs were also more highly skilled in sculpting with crystal. It could be that the skulls found in Mayan ruins are actually displaced Aztec relics... or, as some suspect, this incongruity may indicate that some accounts of the skulls' origins are phony.
Many skeptics feel that the crystal skulls are probably of a much more recent vintage than their accompanying stories suggest. This, they believe, is the best way to explain their existence, since no one could have created them without technologies available only within the past century. Since carbon-dating only works on organic substances, it is impossible to determine just how old a crystal skull is. But one recent study found reasonable signs of some skulls' relative youth.
A May broadcast of the BBC documentary series "Everyman" reported on studies of a number of crystal skulls and other artifacts of supposedly ancient origin conducted at the British Museum. Using electron microscopes, the researchers found that two of the skulls possessed straight, perfectly-spaced surface markings, indicating the use of a modern polishing wheel. Genuine ancient objects would show haphazard tiny scratches from the hand-polishing process. The report speculated that these skulls were actually made in Germany within the past 150 years.
Even the regal Mitchell-Hedges skull is not without scandalous accusations of fraud. Some believe that F.A. Mitchell-Hedges had the piece commissioned by a sculptor, and planted it in the Lubaantun ruins for his daughter to find as a spectacular birthday present.
The validity of this charge is uncertain, but even if the Mitchell-Hedges skull is of modern origin, its structure is no less extraordinary. In all likelihood, every crystal skull in the world was fashioned by plain old human beings of some sort, and regardless of whether the work was carried out five years ago or five hundred years ago, we still don't have any idea how they did it.
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