Lubaantun and the Crystal Skull

In the last century Lubaantun became the scene of what is allegedly the biggest hoax in modern archaeology. After it was excavated in the 1920s, a British adventurer named F. A. Mitchell-Hedges claimed to have stumbled on what became known as the Crystal Skull. Mitchell-Hedges described the incident in a potboiler, Danger, My Ally, in 1951. According to the book, the Crystal Skull was found under an altar at Lubaantun by his daughter Anna. Mitchell-Hedges portrayed himself as a serious archaeologist and explorer: in truth, he was a magazine hack who was later exposed in England as an adventurer. The Crystal Skull made good copy; also known as the Skull of Doom, it was supposedly used by Mayan high priests to zap anyone they didn't like. Mitchell-Hedges claimed it was 3,600 years old and had taken 150 years to fashion by rubbing a block of pure rock crystal with sand. A similar skull, in the possession of the British Museum, shows signs of having been manufactured in modern times with a dentist's drill. However, some archaeologists believe the Crystal Skull may be authentic, possibly of Aztec origin. Anna Mitchell-Hedges, who died in 2007, adamantly refused to allow the Crystal Skull to be tested and denied all requests by the Belizean government to return it. It is now owned by her caregiver, Bill Homann.

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