May 10, 2008 Marc Zender,
Ph.D.: "Frederick Mitchell-Hedges and the Skull of Doom of
impending return of everyone's favorite celluloid archaeologist -- this
time apparently hot on the trail of an alien crystal skull – provided a
welcome opportunity to revisit what is known about several strange
objects in the collections of some of the most well-known museums of
the modern world. The most famous of these objects is claimed by
some to have been discovered in the 1920s at Lubaantun, Belize.
According to Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, it was supposedly 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. Yet despite these and other claims concerning the
antiquity of the skulls and their supposed connections with ancient
civilizations, evidence of their manufacture in mid-nineteenth century
Germany and subsequent sale to various museums and private collectors
is conclusive, spanning both material and documentary evidence.
The crystal skulls thus emerge as one of a growing number of early
archaeological hoaxes whose legacy sadly remains with the field today.
Zender received his Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Calgary
in 2004, and is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology,
Harvard University, and a Research Associate of the Peabody Museum of
Anthropology and Ethnology. He also assists Joel Skidmore in
maintaining Mesoweb, a website specializing in Mesoamerican cultures
and history. Marc is project epigrapher for the Proyecto Arquelogico de
Comalcalco, directed Ricardo Arnijo Torres. His most recent
publications include: Universals and the Logic of the Material
Implication: Case Study from Maya Hieroglyphic Writing; Research
Reports on Ancient Maya Writing 62, 2007, co-written with John
Robertson, Stephen Houston and David Stuart and Fit to be Tied:
Funerary Practices among the Prehispanic Maya. In J. Guernsey and F.
Kent Reilly, eds., Sacred Bundles: Ritual Acts of Wrapping and Binding
in Mesoamerica, 2007, co-written with Kathryn Reese-Taylor and Debra L.
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