Enigma of the Crystal Skulls

The True Story that Preceded the Hollywood Fantasy Offers No Shortage of Mystery and Drama on Its Own Account

With the opening of the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, millions have been learning for the first time about one of the most remarkable stories in the annals of archaeology, the mystery of the crystal skulls. The movie may be fiction, but the tale of the crystal skulls is not only filled with plenty of Hollywood-style adventure, a lot of it is true.

One of the most fascinating substances in nature, crystal lends itself uniquely to various adaptations, including in­formation storage. Today crystal technologies are at the cutting edge of advancements in nanotechnology and com­puting. As for the skulls, themselves, does the fact that they are carved from crystal enable them to store information and interact with human thought waves? Strangely, there is evidence to suggest this could be so.

Moreover, the history of Mesoamerica, where the skulls are said to originate, is rich with the mystical, magical sorcery of the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Maya and Aztecs. Indeed, the turbulent times of the Mexican Revolution form the backdrop for much of the most recent part of the tale, including the saga of F. A. Mitchell-Hedges, the notorious ad­venturer who emerged from the jungles, it was said, with the most famous of the crystal skulls—the so-called “Skull of Doom.”

There are genuine enigmas associated with crystal skulls. Some seem outlandish, while others would appear to make sense but aren’t necessarily true either. Studies of crystal skulls run from exacting scientific examinations to bi­zarre psychic readings that could never be proven. Much of the material on crystal skulls may be fabricated or decep­tive, and the age and origins of the objects obscured—but one thing is certain: crystal skulls are real!

The second most abundant mineral on the earth, after feldspar, quartz has even been found in meteors. It is a large component of sand and sandstone, and is part of almost every rock, be it igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary. It is the main mineral in most gemstones.

Quartz is extremely hard rock, with a Mohs scale of 7. Since diamonds are one of the few minerals that exceed quartz in hardness, diamond-tipped tools or dust are thought to have been used to make most crystal skulls.

Quartz has a lattice of “silica tetrahedra” and ideally forms into a six-sided prism terminating with six-sided pyra­mids at each end. Its crystals can grow together and become intertwined and therefore show only part of this shape, looking like a giant crystal mass. But the underlying crystalline structure, one in which internal patterns of mole­cules are regular, repeated and geometrically arranged, gives quartz many of its striking properties, and makes it pos­sible for one to believe that crystal skulls may actually be the depositories of ancient wisdom.

Eric Smalley, in an article about quantum computers in Technology Research News (online at trnmag.com) re­ports that a research team from the U.S. and Korea succeeded in storing a light pulse in a crystal, and then reconsti­tuting it. This was significant because quantum information is notoriously fragile, and the ability to store it in a crys­tal would advance the feasibility of building a quantum computer (which would theoretically work at far faster speeds than are now possible).

Although there is much work to be done to develop a quantum memory chip, experiments with crystal seem promising. More recent research takes the use of crystals in information processing a step further, experimenting with perhaps the ultimate material in information storage, DNA.

According to Science Daily “Crystals promise a new way to process information.” An article in February, 2003 re­ported, “A team led by Richard Kiehi, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, has used the selective ‘stickiness’ of DNA to construct a scaffolding for closely spaced nanoparticles that could exchange infor­mation on a scale of only 10 angstroms (an angstrom is one 10-billionth of a meter).”

More incredible research involving DNA and its crystal structure has been carried out in an attempt to solve the mysteries of evolution and the origins of life. In the meantime, IBM, in conjunction with DARPA, the Defense Ad­vanced Projects Research Agency, has been involved in developing holographic data storage systems. Through a pro­cess of shooting laser beams into the crystal, they have successfully stored thousands of holograph images on a single lithium niobate crystal.

Clearly, on the cutting edge of science, crystals of various types are being used to store and process information, and success is due to the very nature of crystals themselves. Information can be stored in an orderly fashion, replicat­ed and retrieved. Is it then so farfetched to think that a technologically advanced earlier civilization could have devel­oped these capabilities, and perhaps used crystal skulls to record information? Or even that the same ends may have been met intuitively?

In order to make a large-size crystal skull, say, one nearly the size of a human skull, the crystal carver would need a pretty large piece of quartz crystal—some can reach several meters in length, and weigh tons. Obtaining large, translucent quartz crystals could be very difficult, especially in ancient times. Deposits of large crystals of different grades occur in Brazil, Peru, Mexico, California, Arkansas and other areas of the Americas. Deposits of large quartz crystals are also found in Africa, Europe and Asia, but much of the high quality, translucent quartz crystals today come from Brazil.

Gold and silver are often found around quartz, and quartz crystals can have beautiful gold threads inside them, having grown with the crystal. Quartz crystals have an axis of rotation and they have the ability to rotate the plane of polarization of light passing through them. They are also highly piezoelectric, becoming polarized with a negative charge on one end and a positive charge on the other when subjected to pressure.

Quartz crystals vibrate when an alternating electric current is applied to them, and for this reason they have prov­en to be highly important in commercial applications. Quartz oscillators were developed in 1921 and one early use was in phonograph needles. Their piezoelectricity also makes them ideal for use in making microphones, speakers, pressure gauges, actuators, resonators and clocks.

The many astonishing qualities of quartz seem to make it an ideal material for “psychic” and “light” experiments. In theory, a piece of crystal quartz, or a crystal skull, could and would react to what was around it, including light, electricity, pressure, sound, vibrations of all sorts, and possibly human thought waves and the human electrical field.

Marcel Vogel, an IBM researcher, spent seventeen years testing crystals and their interaction with human energy. He perfected the “Vogel-cut” of crystals to maximize their ability to convey psychic and healing influences. His work is perhaps best summarized in this quote from him: “The crystal is a neutral object whose inner structure exhibits a state of perfection and balance. When it is cut to the proper form and when the human mind enters into relationship with its structural perfection, the crystal emits a vibration which extends and amplifies the power of the user’s mind. Like a laser, it radiates energy in a coherent, highly concentrated form, and this energy may be transmitted into ob­jects or people at will.”

Many unusual phenomena have been associated with crystal skulls. According to Frank Dorland, a San Francisco art expert and restorer who studied the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull for six years, the skull would often be seen with its eyes unusually lit up. The eyes would flicker as if they were watching the observer, and visitors reported odd odors and sounds, plus various lighting effects coming from the skull. Bizarre photographs were taken of “pictures” which sometimes formed within the skull, including images of flying discs and of what appears to be the Caracol observato­ry at the Toltec Mayan site of Chichen Itza. The astonishing ability of crystal skulls to create unusual phenomena is now well known.

It is nearly impossible to discuss crystal skulls without looking into the life of F. A. ‘Mike’ Mitchell-Hedges. A fas­cinating individual, Mitchell-Hedges was very much the prototype for the Indiana-Jones character. After adventurous younger years with Pancho Villa in Mexico, he returned to his native England and then later appeared in Canada where he adopted a young daughter named Anna. Later he traveled throughout Mexico and Central America investi­gating Atlantis and other ancient mysteries. In the 1920s and ’30s he wrote many books and articles about his adven­tures and lost ancient cultures.

When he was not traveling Mitchell-Hedges did a lot of lecturing and radio shows. He was known to be a tall-tale teller, as well as something of a braggart. On a number of occasions he was accused of lying. While he did, apparently, fabricate some tales, it should be pointed out that stories like his involving adventures in wild, remote places are in­herently hard to document. The fact that he maintained sponsorship by the likes of the Heye Museum, the British Museum and the Daily Mail, indicates they had a considerable amount of trust in him and that he actually performed to their satisfaction. He is known to have contributed artifacts to the British Museum.

Some surmise that he may have been a British agent, funded by the government, and, therefore, subject to the Of­ficial Secrets Act, which mandated two years hard labor for violators. He may actually have been forced to make up stories and change facts in his books!

His books were popular during their time and The White Tiger was republished in a number of mass-run mini-hardbacks for the troops and other far-flung readers during WWII. Mitchell-Hedges continued to write after the war.

Many researchers have wondered why, in all of these books, the crystal skull—the Skull of Doom—is never men­tioned, until Danger, My Ally. Is it that the authors were sworn to secrecy over its origin? Did Mike Mitchell-Hedges only acquire the skull late in his life, after all of his other adventures, remarkable as they were? Had it some secret oc­cult origin he could not reveal?

Strangely, he devotes only three paragraphs to the skull in his book and even these were removed from the Ameri­can edition, published later. He says, referring to a trip to South Africa in 1947: “We took with us also the sinister Skull of Doom of which much has been written. How it came into my possession I have reason for not revealing.

“The Skull of Doom is made of pure rock crystal and, according to scientists, it must have taken over 150 years— generation after generation working all the days of their lives, patiently rubbing down with sand an immense block of rock crystal until finally the perfect skull emerged.

“It is at least 3,600 years old and according to legend was used by the high priest of the Maya when performing es­oteric rites. It is said that when he willed death with the help of the skull, death invariably followed. It has been de­scribed as the embodiment of all evil. I do not wish to try and explain [these] phenomena.”

The popular story of the skull’s discovery is that it took place in the latter period of excavations at Lubaantun in 1927. Anna was supposedly digging in a collapsed altar and adjoining wall on her seventeenth birthday when she found the skull. Three months later a matching jawbone was discovered twenty-five feet away. And thus, one of the world’s strangest ancient objects came to light. But, in fact, not a word was said about it for years afterward. Could its origin be more mysterious than the public was led to believe?

Another possibility is that it came from another Central American ancient city, or possibly one in Mexico, and was looted from some pyramid. In this story Mitchell-Hedges would have bought it as a stolen artifact, thus his statement that he had reasons for not revealing how he acquired it.

One theory was that the skull was a 12,000-year-old relic from Atlantis that had been handed down through the Knights Templar and ultimately came into the possession of the inner circle of the top Masonic Lodge. Mitchell-Hedges was an inner Mason and may have somehow acquired the skull either through the secret society or as part of a gambling debt. He then, it is suggested, introduced it to the world through the ingenious device of a lost city.

Wherever he got it, Mitchell-Hedges “skull of doom” has certainly been the target of considerable interest and not a little scientific research since. In 1970 Frank Dorland was given permission by the Mitchell-Hedges estate to submit the skull to tests conducted at the Hewlett-Packard Laboratories at Santa Clara, California.

In the last days that Dorland had the skull, it was submersed in a benzyl alcohol bath at the Hewlett-Packard La­boratories, with a beam of light passing through the submerged skull. It was during this test that is was noted that both the skull and jaw piece had come from the same quartz block. This made the carving even more remarkable.

Crystallographers at Hewlett-Packard also discovered that the skull and jaw had been carved with total disregard to the natural axis in the quartz. This might be expected of ancient skulls, but not so much of modern ones. The rea­son is that the tools used in modern crystal cutting vibrate, and can fracture and break a crystal if it is cut wrong. Therefore, the first procedure is always to determine the axis, and during the subsequent shaping process to work along with it.

According to Dorland, no evidence of the use of metal tools could be found. Using a high-powered microscope for analysis, he looked for any telltale scratch marks. From tiny patterns in the quartz near the carved surfaces, Dorland determined the skull was first meticulously chiseled into a rough form, probably using diamonds. The final polishing and shaping, he believed, was done by applying innumerable applications of solutions of water and silicon-crystal sand. In theory this was done by hand—say, by polishing the skull with a leather rag that had been doused in the so­lution, over and over again.

The problem with that, Dorland suggested, was if these were the processes used, then, he calculated, it would re­quire a total of 300 man-years of continuous labor. Mitchell-Hedges in Danger, My Ally suggested that it took 150 years to make. If it took centuries to make such a skull, the implication is that these objects were very important to the cultures that produced them. But that is assuming that the Mitchell-Hedges skull, and other similar skulls, are indeed ancient.

For now, most of the major questions regarding the true origins and purpose of the crystal skulls remain unan­swered.

BY DAVID H. CHILDRESS

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