'Indiana Jones' sued over missing crystal skull

Evidently the fourth Indiana Jones film used a little too much history in its mysterious alien crystal skull tale! As they told us, there are only four known crystal skulls in the world. One of them is getting Disney and Paramount sued!

Dr. Jaime Awe, director of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize has brought suit on a number of parties on behalf of Belize. He is seeking the return of the Mitchell-Hedges skull and damages for use of its likeness. The Mitchell-Hedges is the missing fourth skull and was mentioned in the Indiana Jones movie. Awe claims the movie skull bears a striking resemblance to the original.

F.A. Mitchell-Hedges traveled to Belize in the early 1920s. His adopted daughter Anna Mitchell-Hedges is alleged to have first discovered a Crystal Skull under a collapsed altar while exploring temple ruins in Belize. She reportedly disclosed this in a documentary that aired on the Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy) in 2008. The skull is described as 5 inches high, 7 inches long and 5 inches wide. It was taken to the U.S in 1930, then travelled with the father to England and remained there until his death in 1959, after which it was kept by the daughter and later the daughter's husband in Indiana. The family is said to have made money exhibiting it

'Indiana Jones' Lawsuit Seeks Hollywood Profits from Alleged Crystal Skull Theft - the Hollywood Reporter

(Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)


  1. Wait basically if the skulls are real and I’m not saying they are but if they are real don’t they belong to the Belize people and not these tomb raiders?

    They admit they found the skulls in Belize and took it away that’s theft i’m surprised the Belize government does not try and get this family extradited over relic robbery.

    1. yes, in fact i’ve seen another documentary (not the one on the syfy) that put these tomb raiders under a pretty critical light.  Apparently they made up a bunch of hocus pocus stories to get the skull into more exhibits and to try to maximize profit/notoriety.

      1. Errr, can we have some “Blog author cannot snag the best comment” rule in place so us commenters can have some joy in our lives?

          1. Jep. I’m pretty sure that they’re already working on that movie. It’s got everything, charismatic/insane protagonist, drugs, sex, gangsters, shady governments, crystal skulls, tomb raiders, south america. Ohwait, I think they already did that movie.

          1. Nope, it should have been “Double dumbass  on you!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcC1f1jqCPI

    2. They admit they found the skulls in Belize and took it away that’s theft i’m surprised the Belize government does not try and get this family extradited over relic robbery.

      Pretty sure you can’t charge someone for a crime committed by an ancestor, even in Belize. Especially if the law did not explicitly forbid that kind of thing at the time.

      1. They’re going after the very people (well, the husband of the woman) who claimed to have taken the skull originally.  If it was illegal (which apparently such an act would have been), they could certainly go after the family to recover the item. (It would be nice if it forced the family to admit it was never in the tomb, but I suppose the people left alive don’t necessarily know that.)
        Oddly, they’re also going after Spielberg for using a prop designed to look like that sculpture.  Because: money. They certainly don’t have a case there.

      2. During world war 2 a lot of relics and art work where stolen by well everyone on both sides, decades later even when the original people who took the relics and art are gone the authorities in charge of finding and returning the stolen relics find and take them even from people who only inherited them.  Just because your ancestors committed the crime does not mean you can still profit from it especially if it is with stolen items you still posses.  They might not be charged with the theft but they can have the items taken of them.

  2. So if I understand the sequence of events correctly:

    1. Ornamental skull made in 19th-Century Europe
    2. Skull is taken to (modern-day) Belize in 1920s and fraudulently passed off as a pre-Columbian artifact
    3. Skull taken to U.S. and England to display for profit, eventually lost
    4. Kinda-similar-looking skull used as plot device in a shitty movie sequel set in a completely different country
    5. Movie producers owe money to Belize?

    1. Never mind.

      @brainspore — sorry, I said Belize bagged him, but decided I better check myself and as far as I could tell Guatemala hadn’t turned him over yet. My bad.

      1. I say we just let them keep his crystal meth and call it even.

        [Edit: OK, now this comment makes no sense. Oh well.]

    2. The pictures of the skull on its official website look nothing like the decidedly alien-proportioned skull in the film. I’m going to guess the claim against Hollywood was a publicity stunt.

  3. The inclusion of the Hollywood studios in this is just an absurd money grab. The Indiana Jones movie had nothing to do with the theft of the skull.

    The claim of rights to the likeness of the skull is bullshit as far as modern intellectual property laws are concerned. You can’t copyright the likeness of ancient cultural relics and even if you could, they would have expired by now. You can’t trademark the likeness of the skull because its likeness is a historic fact rather than an artistic rendering that uniquely identifies a particular organization or brand.

    Not to mention that the movie popularized the knowledge of the skulls with the general public, so the money they want a chunk of wouldn’t have been available to them had the movie not been made. The movie didn’t unfairly compete with Belize’s ability to make a popular (if flawed) movie about the skulls, fictional or otherwise.

    1. You can’t copyright the likeness of ancient cultural relics and even if you could, they would have expired by now.

      Then again, the upside of such copyright restrictions is that the National Treasure franchise probably never would have seen the light of day.

      1. If that were the case, it still wouldn’t be copyrightable. Same result regardless of the origin.

        Ironically, the movie studio might have the strongest claim to the likeness of the specific skull they created since it was a part of an artistic work in fixed medium.

  4. just direct him to the warehouse where it was probably put into storage by those top men. if he can find it, it’s his.

  5. Indiana ‘500’ Bones – my dog’s name – is awesome.

    To wit:

    1. I can call him ‘indie’ even though everybody loves him. 

    2. As per Connery in the ‘The Last Crusade,’ that lion-tamer-turned-crystal-skullfucker Indiana Jones was, piquantly, named after the family dog. 

    3. The Indy 500 is a thing. I hear.

    4. I bone my dog. 

    So this was about, like, IP or something, right?

  6. The ‘discoverer’s’ are from Indiana, and that tells you all you need to know.

    Here’s the real story. In the late 1990s, archeologists in Nicaragua, I believe, found a ‘Cave of the Crystal Skulls’. I happened to work with one of those who documented the find, rare natural crystals forming on human bones left in the caves, covering them over eons with a patina of shimmering calcium crystals.
    Very beautiful glittering ‘skin’ on the ancient bones, …but too fragile to move.

    Now comes AMH, and claims to have discovered ‘carved crystal skulls’ in Belize, conveniently close to Nicaragua, conveniently English speaking, so baggage easily slips in and out, conveniently timed to pre-release of Indiana Jones ‘Kingdom of Crystal Skulls’, also in 2008. 

    Now here’s where it gets funny. The same production director I worked with, who helped document ‘Cave of the Crystal Skulls’, also worked on Alien, and told me the ‘crystal skull’ was just an acrylic model they were going to use in the ‘vats of miscegenation’ that Ripley smashed.

    Look at that skull! That’s not human, that’s the same form-factor as ‘Alien’.
    AMH is just another Joseph Smith and his Magic Golden Scrolls. A con.

  7. Ya, this is just about the money. There’s pretty solid evidence that this crystal skulls stuff is all bullshit (at least one has marks that could only have been made by a type of polishing rotary machine) and the people most intimately involved in the hoax smell cash, so they lawyer up. They’re probably hoping for a quick “shut up” settlement from Disney (which they very well might get).

    1. I’m pretty sure Disney’s lawyers don’t earn their money by rolling over at the first sign of a BS lawsuit.

      1. They need to be feed fresh meat once and while to keep their teeth sharp. I would love to see Disney make an example of them because as a side result we could get a court judgment confirming historical art as uncopyrightable.

  8. I’m not even sure why people would make such a fuss over the things, even if they were authentic pre-Columbian artifacts. It might be unusual to get a piece of clear quartz that size, but basically they’re just rocks carved into the shape of skulls, with varying degrees of realism. Mostly of interest to eccentric but harmless types like Dan Aykroyd (although he’s also making a buck off of his vodka, I’d imagine).

  9. Not one of the 13 known crystal skulls is a real meso-american artefact. Most/all were probably made  between 1850 and 1950 in the region around Idar-Oberstein, Germany. Idar-Oberstein was (and still is) famous for it’s natural gemstone resources and skilled crystal cutters. In the 19th century it was so remotely located that probable rumors of the production of those crystal skulls didn’t spread very far.

    There is a ongoing exhibition called Schädelkult (Cult of the Skull) in the Archeology Museum Herne, Germany that adresses the issue (among other things): http://www.schaedelkult.lwl.org/
    (I’m part of the team that realized the exhibition.)

    1. Nice. I like the Venus of Willendorf soap in your webshop. You should try to sell skullsoaps as well, maybe like the H. heidelbergensis cranial no.5 in a smaller version. I would suspect that the gouvernment of Spain would not be able to sue you. 3d scans should be readily available, e.g. with Friedemann Schrenk and colleagues.

    1.  Lasers really wouldn’t be the best thing to sculpt something made of a mineral that’s basically clear glass. Think about it.

  10. Maybe the judge will find that pretty much nobody had heard of crystal skulls before that abomination of a movie and that it increased the profitability of those skulls to the skull owners, so they owe Paramount some money.  OK, that’s silly, dismissed with prejudice would be sufficient.

    1.  They’ve been around for far longer than Indiana Jones–I’d heard about them back in the seventies.

  11. Here’s what I don’t get: we know what the Mitchell Hedges skull looks like. We know what the macguffin in the movie looks like. Aside from the description “crystal skull” they look nothing alike. The MH skull actually looks like it comes from a human for starters. So they did not use it’s likeness and Awe’s claim they look similar is a lie- or one hopes it’s a lie given his job.

  12. Seeking the profits from the film – good luck proving that the studio made a profit. Hollywood accounting surely shows a loss for that film.

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