Does Indiana Jones, who's back in action this bank holiday weekend in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, know he's risking life and limb for a bunch of fake artifacts? Experts analyzed two skulls held by the British Museum and the Smithsonian that were once thought to be pre-Columbian Mesoamerican relics, and concluded that they are modern fakes. The findings are published in the May 2008 edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
British and American researchers used modern techniques to uncover the quartz crystal skulls' secrets. Using electron microscopes and X-ray scanning methods, the teams found that modern industrial techniques had been used to fashion the stone. The British Museum skull was manufactured using rotary tools and an abrasive substance such as crystallized aluminum oxide or diamond particles, while the Smithsonian skull has been fashioned with a silicon carbide abrasive.
The British Museum skull first surfaced in 1881 in a Parisian antiques shop. It was bought at auction by Tiffany & Co, who then sold in on to the museum, at a profit, in 1897. The Smithsonian skull was donated anonymously in 1992. It was left with a note that said it had been purchased in Mexico in the 1960’s.
"There are about a dozen or more of these crystal skulls. Except for the British Museum skull and one in Paris, they seem to have entered public awareness since the 60s, with the interest in quartz and the New Age movement," said Cardiff University Professor and study researcher Ian Freestone, speaking to the BBC. "It does appear that people have been making them since then. Some of them are quite good, but some of them look like they were produced with a Black & Decker in someone's garage."
Suspecting their skull was a fake, the Smithsonian first carried out research on their relic in 1992. Meanwhile the British Museum list their skull as being "probably European, 19th century AD" and "not an authentic pre-Columbian artifact".
A simple search on the internet could have saved Indiana Jones the bother of coming out of retirement. Rather than chasing half-way around the world after these forged antiquities, leaving a path of destruction in his wake, it would have been far more efficient it he'd bought a lump of quartz and a power tool from Home Depot to satisfy his quest for a crystal skull.
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