There's something very appealing about human skulls carved out of crystal. We now associate them with an Indiana Jones movie and the inspiration for a celebrity vodka, but for more than a century, they were sought-after relics of the Aztec Empire. In the late 1800s, these beautiful icons that illustrated the Aztecs' fascination with skulls began to be found in Mexico and sent to museums. It appears now that they are all fakes.
When you combine the pre-Columbian fascination with skulls with the technical prowess at carving stone, it may have been easy for some to believe that these ancient people could have carved skulls out of crystal. And for nearly 150 years, that subtext helped a number of museum exhibit curators feel comfortable about displaying their crystal skulls, despite long-standing questions about these objects' true origins.
It was only thanks to a number of investigations like Walsh's in recent years that archaeologists have largely come to the consensus that these crystal skulls are fakes. Some still display them from time to time because of the public's extreme interest.
So how did the crystal skull craze get started? Research traces them back to one man, who was able to profit handsomely on their authenticity because he was himself an expert on the authenticity of Mexican relics. Read that story at Discover magazine.
[via Strange Company]