Designing From Bones – Seeing Through the Skulls Eyes

Welcome to Designing from Bones, where we use archaeology, mythology and the artifacts of human history to find and design stories.

Come, friends, the misty portal awaits to transport us into the heart of a mystery, clouded in deceit and wrapped in unexplained mystery.

One skull to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.

The Crystal Skulls

Stepping into the gloom of the Mayan tomb you sweep the webs from your path. Each step taken with care for loose stones that might unleash an ancient dart or blade. You come to a circular room, an altar plinth set on the far side, glints of reflected light shine back through grime and debris from an object resting on it. You approach the altar and sweat drips into your eyes even though the air is cool. Reaching out you trace a tentative finger through the grit. A hardened glassy surface is set free. A few moments of cleaning and you find yourself staring into ancient eye sockets, breath held, timeless. You’ve just discovered one of the rarest treasures on Earth. A crystal skull.

Since the late 1800’s more than  a dozen such skulls have come to light. Some purportedly discovered in ancient Mayan ruins, others carried by holy men or mysteriously appearing in the collections of auction houses and museum warehouses. The most recent was sent to the Smithsonian Institute in 1992 by an anonymous donor – now a proven hoax.

A few of the skulls are human-sized bearing immaculate detail and detachable mandibles. In contrast to these masterpieces, the majority are stylistic representations, of grotesque design or seemingly unfinished product.

Study of the skulls, undertaken by various organizations including Hewlett-Packard and applying state-of-the-art equipment show that many of the skulls used modern processes and machinery. However, a few show signs of manufacture by human hands. What all of the skulls have in common is a method of cutting against the grain of the crystal; a method that should cause the delicate material to fracture, but in the case of the skulls did not.

Aliens or Ancients?

The Mitchell-Hedges Skull

The New Age movement quickly adopted the crystal skulls in the modern age, holding them up as icons of extraterrestrial origin given to humanity for healing and spiritual enlightenment. In some cases, proponents of the alien theory claim that the skulls are alien computers holding untold secrets important to the future of humanity.

As we have seen before, it is easy to make claims without proof by appealing to the wishful thinking of others. The most famous of the crystal skulls, Mitchell-Hedges, illustrates this point.

Reportedly discovered in 1924 by the seventeen year old daughter of British explorer F.A. Mitchell-Hedges at the Mayan ruins of Lubaantun (Belize), this skull was undocumented (not mentioned in any form) until 1943 when it was purchased by Mitchell-Hedges from Sotheby’s after a bidding battle with the British Museum. This fact is supported by the museums documentation of the event.

F.A. Mitchell-Hedges (left) with friends.

However, shortly after purchase, the explorer reversed history and claimed the skull originated from the Lubaantun dig. His daughter and the supposed discoverer, Anne, remained in possession of the skull until her death in 2007, bringing it out for regular paid tours.

Testing of the Mitchell-Hedges skull in 1970 by Hewlett-Packard found that no metal instruments or modern machinery were used in its creation. The skull is carved against its natural axis, which should have caused it to shatter during creation, however, it is the most human-like of all the known crystal skulls and devoid of fracture.

Frank Dorland who carried out the research for H-P believed that the crystal was first carved using diamonds and then soaked in a silicon sand and water solution – a process that would have required 300 years to complete. Dorland’s final statement on the skull: “The damn thing simply shouldn’t be”.

Regardless of whether the skulls are of alien origin or the product of masterful sculptors they present an enigma that remains beyond modern explanation.

Through the Skull’s Eyes

What lessons can we, as writers, learn from the skulls? How can we see through their faceted eyes?

A great use of the Crystal Skull mystery

On the obvious side, they make a superb centerpiece for fiction as shown in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In this case the skull provided paranormal powers to whomever returned it to an ancient city and as such acted as a primary plot device.

While the skulls could be given all the powers that the New Age movement would have us believe, reversing these same factors multiplies their usage. What can heal can also kill. What brings enlightenment can also bring damnation.

If one of the skulls was an alien computer it is just as possible that it could be programmed to seek our destruction or manipulate humanity to passivity as to provide us with useful information. Why would a superior intergalactic power want to make humans their equals? Would we do the same if the situation were reversed? Tons of story potential in just these few questions.

While, for reasons of length, I’ve avoided full detail on the host of skulls, they are easy to find on the net if you’re so inclined. Each has its own history and story or you could just manufacture your own, with a bit of diamond sharp thought followed by a soak in imaginative solution.

What do you see through the crystal skulls eyes?

I now return you through the misty portal to your own time and place. Who do you think made the crystal skulls? Where they designed with a purpose in mind? Supernatural, extraterrestrial, or hoax? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Be sure to check out my previous Designing from Bones posts for more great history and tips.

Peaceful Journeys!

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. “Only the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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17 Responses to Designing From Bones – Seeing Through the Skulls Eyes

  1. I’ve seen accounts suggesting that ALL the crystal skulls were ‘fake’, as in manufactured with industrial-age techniques perhaps in the late 1800s. But in any event it seems to me that a lot has been wrapped in false syllogism – ‘we cannot explain the skulls, therefore the weird explanation must be true’. Actually, the evidence doesn’t point that way at all. In fact, the answer is: ‘we don’t yet know how this was done’. It doesn’t mean the answer is unknowable.

    Sometimes, weird explanations are proposed purely because the person doing so is unaware of the actual explanation. Near Dunedin, at Moeraki, we’ve got a beach filled with huge spherical boulders. The fringe thinkers consider them human constructs, perhaps Chinese sail-raising devices. In reality they are a natural phenomenon – and this was known in the 1850s, when they were frst examined scientifically.(Check out http://www.moerakiboulders.com/ )

    That sort of attitude has dogged New Zealand’s wider prehistory, too. For a long time there was insufficient archaeological evidence to identify precisely where Maori came from, and when. One of the outcomes has been a supposition that science can never know and therefore one or more of various autodidiact/fringe theories are correct. (“Science can’t tell us, therefore my fantasy must be true.”) A lot of it has been tied up in New Age thinking. In fact, of course, ongoing research has revealed precisely where Maori came from, and when. But only lately. I’ve published the story in several of my recent books. And, to me at least, it’s a lot more exciting than the fantasy editions of New Zealand’s past.

    Drawing that back into writing and the points you make – I wonder. Crystal skulls made by unexplainable means? When we speculate around things we don’t know, are we being imaginative ENOUGH? J B S Haldane once remarked that the universe is not merely stranger than we imagine. It’s stranger than we CAN imagine. Too true. The problem for writers is making something exotic without losing the reader in total weirdness. We’re not all Kafka.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    Matthew Wright
    http://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com
    http://www.matthewwright.net

  2. Diane Tibert says:

    Thanks for sharing more information on the crystal skull. I only learnt of them when I saw the Indiana Jones movie. A connection drawn to the Mayans in this year can only feed the mind of imagination. Interesting. And, of course, great material to inject into a story.

  3. K.B. Owen says:

    Uber-cool, Gene! I never saw that particular Indiana Jones, and never knew about crystal skulls. Thanks so much for the fascinating info.

  4. Gene, awesome as ever. great post. I have always been intrigued by the crystal skulls. They are so very perfect as a device for fiction. Actually, they were features in an episode of Stargate SG1 a few years ago. oooh, the mind boggles and the wheels turn. 🙂

  5. Hoax or no hoax, how cool WOULD it be to dig up a crystal skull? 😉

  6. I find the Crystal Skull mythos fascinating! Thanks for the post.

  7. Catie Rhodes says:

    I’ve never seen that particular Indiana Jones, and didn’t even know it existed. I had also never heard of the crystal skulls, which is not so unusual. I learn lots of new stuff on your blog.

    Fun fiction idea for the skulls: A lost South American tribe carved the crystal skulls. An ancient prophecy claims that when the 13 real crystal skull is found, armageddon will ensue. An explorer finds the 13th skull and its sets in motion some plague that is going to destroy the earth. So, what does the man who caused the end of the world do with his last days? Cliché, I know. But it interested me for as long as it took to type it.

  8. Jane Sadek says:

    In a world too full of facts, thinking of what might be is one of the few freedoms we have.

  9. Perhaps the skulls were made in the future by an advanced race who visited the ancient Mayans and left them behind to be called upon when the time is right!

    I visited the Aztec pyramids near Mexico City twice and loved it both times. Really sent my head spinning, and not just because of the heat and altitude. I love that there is still so much that we do not know.

    ~Tui

  10. I think the crystal stork brought them! LOL Um, not sure which is worse—my lame joke or my laughing at it. 😉 I agree with Tui…I relish the mystery.

  11. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    This is so cool, “with a bit of diamond sharp thought followed by a soak in imaginative solution.”
    I believe The History Channel did a show on the crystal skulls. Really played it up, especially about the 2012 prediction of the end of the world!

    Hmmm, my thoughts aren’t very sharp today and I need to buy more imaginative solution, but let me take a stab at how the crystal skulls came to be. I say cosmic dust particles (from meteorites) blew into Never Never Land. Tinkerbell was allergic and couldn’t stop sneezing, so she spun some fairy dust into the space particles and created the crystal skulls. She and her fairy friends hid them here & there and have giggled themselves silly over all the hype.

  12. J Holmes says:

    Great post Gene. You always provide great food for creativity.

    From Matthew Wright. “It doesn’t mean the answer is unknowable.”

    The wealthy Prostitute:: “I am told you do magic young priest”
    Siddhartha: “To those that do not understand it is magic”

    From August McLauglin : “I think the crystal stork brought them!”

    Stop making fun of my religion. The Crystal Stalk Church is the one true Church.

    I had the pleasure of seeing one of the skulls on display in Mexico City at the previously lovely but now robbed nearly bare Anthropology Museum. I found it fascinating but I didn’t know about the controversy. Latter I saw one in Brussels that was on temporary loan. They were both fun to look at.

    Rather than accept anything crazy like the repeatable results of science that follow predictable and definable laws of nature I’ll offer the real explanation. I have it on good authority from a women that was abducted from a remote trailer park in Oklahoma by aliens and was then enlightened via an alien sexual ritual before being left in the parking lot of a local bar, that high ranking members of the Admiral Byrd Society received the skulls from that special civilization under the Arctic and they then planted them around Central America where they were functioning as landing beacons for the next ET D-Day operation. Because they were disturbed the invasion has been delayed.

    I’m glad I could clear that up. It takes “special” people to explain special things. I feel so special now.

  13. Piper Bayard says:

    Fascinating about that skull and how it might have been made. I find it ironic in light of today’s values that people would use diamonds to carve crystal. I wonder if it really was buried in sand for 300 years. It’s possible. Perhaps even a full b’ak’tun. Could have been a religious trust for the Mayans. Or it could be the work of an aspiring artist who never gained recognition in his or her own time. . . . Ok. Sorry. That’s a depressing thought. 🙂

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Had a bit of a delay there. My apologies.

      Matthew: You make excellent points. I find that Occam’s Razor applies most of the time: All things being equal the simplest explanation is generally the correct one. In the case of the crystal skulls I’d have to say that most are hoaxes meant to prey on gullible minds, beautiful but sans the history they purport. A couple may well be the product of ancient techniques although until proof is evident this believe should be treated as suspect, in case the first answer (hoax) applies. Thanks for the great comment.

      Diane, Kathy, Prudence, Renee, Shea: Thanks 🙂

      Catie: There is actually a story being flung around that the 13 skulls are the key to stopping the Mayan armageddon. Personally, I’d be frightened if that were the case, after all, who would you trust to save the world?

      Jane: Very true.

      Tui: Actually, I’m glad there is a great deal we don’t know. Life should have an essential quality of mystery to it – spice to enrich the gray blandness of mundane. Nice comment, thanks 🙂

      August: *smile* Thanks.

      Lynn: I bet they would make a fun object for a kids book. Just sayin’.

      Holmes: The Crystal Stork Church is one my fav’s, right next to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (real thing, look it up). The only place in which we are truly free to travel and explore is in our own minds. Oh, and, you are special, in ways I would bet only you understand *grin*

      Piper: A diamond is pretty, a crystal skull is an achievement, which perhaps, is something that we have lost in the modern world. It seems we worship the pretty and downplay the achievement. This may be one reason why “uneducated barbarians” understood how to do things our greatest science cannot achieve or understand. Food for thought. By the way, I didn’t find the thought depressing, some artists seek legacy with the understanding that it can only come after their death and never be personally enjoyed. Great comment, thanks.

  14. Marcia says:

    Fascinating story on the skulls. Like the pyramids, we may never know the truth about how they were constructed. Makes for fodder for fertile imaginations! Awesome as always!

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