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There have been few more enigmatic and controversial ‘anomalous artefacts’ in the past century than the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull, but it took an Indiana Jones storyline to bring it back into the public consciousness in 2008. With the renewed focus came more modern analysis of the ‘Skull of Doom’; in a UK documentary the same year, Jane Walsh – an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History – found the skull to be a modern creation.

Just this week, Archaeology Magazine presented Walsh’s investigation into the skull as an online feature. In it, the Smithsonian anthropologist discusses the technical analysis of the skull under the microscope, the skull’s history, and the Mitchell-Hedges’ claims, and found the entire case wanting:

Analysis of the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull using SEM leaves little doubt that this object was carved and polished using modern, high-speed, diamond-coated, rotary, cutting and polishing tools of minute dimensions. This technology is certainly not pre-Columbian. I believe it is decidedly 20th century. The similarities between the Mitchell-Hedges skull and the British Museum skull suggest that the former is an improved copy of the latter. The recently published SEM study of the British Museum skull additionally suggests it was probably carved within a decade of the date it was first offered for sale in 1881. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the Mitchell-Hedges skull, which first appeared in 1933, was also created within short time of its debut.

…In Danger My Ally, Frederick Mitchell-Hedges warned that the skull was “the embodiment of all evil” and that “several people who have cynically laughed at it have died, others have been stricken and become seriously ill”. Clearly, we should not believe everything we read, and, ultimately, we must be brave and tell the truth. The Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull is not ancient; not even very old. It was probably made in Europe in the 20th century, and was not polished for five generations. It is not powerful, not scary and not at all what it purports to be.

Filip Coppens looked into the strange history behind the ‘Skull of Doom’ in his fascinating Darklore 2 article "The Real Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (available from Amazon US and UK). One of the more interesting facts recounted by Filip is that Frederick Mitchell-Hedges wrote a novel in 1931 – two years before the skull’s first appearance in London – titled, The White Tiger, in which the protagonist is shown an ancient cache of Aztec treasure, including "crystal heads". Well worth a read, some wonderfully intricate Fortean history.

Previously on TDG: