top of page

Exploring "The Legend of the Crystal Skulls"

Beginning in the late 19th century, around a dozen carved skulls made of clear or milky white quartz—also known as rock crystal—made their way into private and public collections around the globe. Since then, the origins of these “crystal skulls” have been the subject of ongoing mystery and controversy. According to the people who claimed to have discovered the skulls, they date back thousands or even tens of thousands of years, to ancient Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Aztec, Toltec, Mixtec or Maya. Many of those who believe in the crystal skulls’ ancient provenance attribute supernatural powers to the objects, including healing properties and the power to expand a person’s psychic abilities in their presence. Some have linked the skulls to the lost city of Atlantis, or claimed them as proof that extraterrestrials visited pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Aztecs. The 2008 movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” capitalized on the ongoing mystery, as well as the passion the skulls’ believers bring to their side of the argument.

Crystal Skull Legend

Native American Cherokee Medicine Man, Harley Swift-Deer Reagan is quoted as saying: "The skulls were kept inside a pyramid in a formation of tremendous power known as the Ark. The Ark was comprised of the twelve skulls from each of the sacred planets kept in a circle, with the thirteenth skull, the largest, placed in the center of this formation. This thirteenth skull represents the collective consciousness of all the worlds. It connects up the knowledge of all the sacred planets.


Legend and Prophecy

There are very few legends that cross over cultures and times the way the crystal skull legends do. They are contemporary shared by the Mayans, The Aztecs, the Native Americans and other indigenous people around the world (and in philosophical terms, they are recorded in Atlantean and Lemurian Times). These legends have been handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years, which attests to their enduring power.

The legend of the "Great Flood", which was passed down from ancient times, is one of the few enduring legends that is also shared by most cultures around the world - which scientists now confirm was real.

The more you learn about crystal skulls, the more you realize the power of multiple crystal skulls. There are many cultures that have legends about crystal skulls, sometimes involving different numbers of crystal skulls. However, "thirteen crystal skulls" seems to be the common denominator among most crystal skull legends.

Crystal skulls are not uncommon or terribly mysterious. Thousands are produced every year in Brazil, China, and Germany. But there are a handful of these rather macabre objects that have fueled intense interest and controversy among archaeologists, scientists, spiritualists, and museum officials for more than a century.

There are perhaps a dozen of these rare crystal skulls in private and public collections. Some are crystal clear, others of smoky or colored quartz. Some are actual human size and of very fine detail, while others are smaller and less refined. All are believed to originate from Mexico and Central America.

Many believe these skulls were carved thousands or even tens of thousands of years ago by an ancient Mesoamerican civilization. Others think they may be relics from the legendary island of Atlantis or proof that extraterrestrials visited the Aztec sometime before the Spanish conquest.

The Crystal skulls have undergone serious scholarly scrutiny, but they also excite the popular imagination because they seem so mysterious. Theories about their origins abound. Some believe the skulls are the handiwork of the Maya or Aztecs. Some insist that they originated on a sunken continent or in a far-away galaxy.

Supernatural Fascination

Stories about the skulls focus heavily on their perceived supernatural powers.

Joshua Shapiro, coauthor of Mysteries of the Crystal Skulls Revealed, cites claims of healings and expanded psychic abilities from people who have been in the presence of such skulls.

"We believe the Crystal Skulls are a form of computer which are able to record energy and vibration that occur around them," he writes. " The skull will pictorially replay all events or images of the people who have come into contact with them (i.e. they contain the history of our world)."

Skulls were prominent in ancient Mesoamerican artwork, particularly among the Aztec, so the connection between these artifacts and these civilizations is apt.

"It was a symbol of regeneration," says Michael Smith, a professor of anthropology at Arizona State University. "There were several Aztec gods that were represented by skulls, so they were probably invoking these gods. I don't think they were supposed to have specific powers or anything like that."

These exotic carvings are usually attributed to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, but not a single crystal skull in a museum collection comes from a documented excavation, and they have little stylistic or technical relationship with any genuine pre-Columbian depictions of skulls, which are an important motif in Mesoamerican iconography.

What is the truth behind the crystal skulls? Where did they come from, and why were they made?

Museums began collecting rock-crystal skulls during the second half of the nineteenth century, when no scientific archaeological excavations had been undertaken in Mexico and knowledge of real pre-Columbian artifacts was scarce. It was also a period that saw a burgeoning industry in faking pre-Columbian objects. When Smithsonian archaeologist W. H. Holmes visited Mexico City in 1884, he saw "relic shops" on every corner filled with fake ceramic vessels, whistles, and figurines. Two years later, Holmes warned about the abundance of fake pre-Columbian artifacts in museum collections in an article for the journal Science titled "The Trade in Spurious Mexican Antiquities."

Although nearly all of the crystal skulls have at times been identified as Aztec, Toltec, Mixtec, or occasionally Maya, they do not reflect the artistic or stylistic characteristics of any of these cultures. The Aztec and Toltec versions of death heads were nearly always carved in basalt, occasionally were covered with stucco, and were probably all painted.

Anna Mitchell–Hedges

Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges (sometimes known as Mike Hedges; 22 October 1882 – 12 June 1959) was an English adventurer, traveler and writer. Mitchell–Hedges was known for his connection to the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull, claimed to have been found with his adopted daughter Anna Mitchell–Hedges in Lubaantun, Belize in 1924

The 1954 publication of Mitchell-Hedges's memoir, Danger My Ally, this skull has acquired a Maya origin, as well as a number of fantastic, Indiana Jones-like tall tales. His adopted daughter, Anna Mitchell-Hedges, who died last year at the age of 100, cared for it for 60 years, occasionally exhibiting the skull privately for a fee. It is currently in the possession of her widower, but 10 nieces and nephews have also laid claim to it. Known as the Skull of Doom, the Skull of Love, or simply the Mitchell-Hedges Skull, it is said to emit blue lights from its eyes, and has reputedly crashed computer hard drives.

Many Believe it was an elaborate HOAX.

The museums had displayed their crystal skulls as Mesoamerican Aztec artifacts for over 100 years, though their authenticity was questioned long before the 20th century even begun. Still, it wasn’t until a milky-white rock crystal skull was delivered anonymously to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. in 1992 that the mystery of the crystal skulls’ origins would finally be unraveled.

The only evidence that accompanied it was an unsigned note which read: “This Aztec skull…was purchased in Mexico in 1960…” With Mexico as the only lead, researching the skull fell to Jane McLaren Walsh, an expert in Mexican archaeology at the Smithsonian. With little information to go on, Walsh compared the skulls from other museums, researched museum archives and employed scientific research to find answers. Eventually, her quest would lead to the Mitchell-Hedges skull.

One of the first things Walsh noticed was the stylistic differences between the crystal skulls and those depicted in Mesoamerican art. Skulls were a recurring motif in pre-Colombian iconography, but Mesoamerican skulls were almost always carved out of basalt and were crudely carved. In addition, quartz was rarely used in pre-Colombian artifacts, and no crystal skulls had ever been found in any documented archaeological excavation.

With the design of the crystal skulls remaining an enigma, Walsh turned her attention to the skull’s documented record of ownership. She traced both the Briti