Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Crystal Skull and the Superstition Mountains


The Crystal Skull in the British Museum

One of the most bizarre stories coming out of Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, which is saying a great deal, is that of the search for the Crystal Skull.  The Crystal Skull is said to be an ancient Aztec artifact with mystical properties.  In the summer of 1980, one Joe Mays showed up trying to recruit guides and horses for a trek into the mountains to hunt for the Crystal Skull.  It was July, with the temperatures hovering around 110 degrees.  The locals weren’t too interested in the Crystal Skull, but they were very interested in all of the crisp one hundred dollar bills that Mays was splashing about.

Mays brought a small crew with him and contracted with Peralta Stables and local guides for support.  He intended to go into the mountains for three weeks.  As it turns out, Mays was spending money from investors, and he was spending it very lavishly, in the end some twenty thousand dollars (sixty thousand dollars in today’s money).  Mays was using an “ancient book” as his bona fides for the investors.  

Unfortunately for Mays, his investors were an unsavory lot who were used to getting a high return on their money.  The investors suggested to Mays that his next stop would be the Atlantic Ocean in a pair of cement overshoes, unless he produced and produced fast.  After a few more days of fumbling about the Superstitions, Mays came up with a brilliant idea.  He convinced the investors that they should make a video documentary, “that would make millions!” Mays had the gift of the gab, and the investors bought into the scheme. 

The Crystal Skull has an interesting history.  In the late nineteenth century, when European interest in ancient culture was at its peak, Crystal Skulls, supposedly of pre-Columbian Aztec or Mayan origin, began appearing in major museums in England and France.  It was one, Eugène Boban, an antiquities dealer who opened his shop in Paris in 1870, who is most associated with nineteenth century museum collections of Crystal Skulls. Boban is said to have tried to sell a Crystal Skull to Mexico's national museum as an Aztec artifact, but was unsuccessful. Boban later moved his business to New York City. A Crystal Skull was exhibited at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in New York. It was sold at auction, and bought by Tiffany and Co., which later sold it at cost to the British Museum in 1897.

The Crystal Skull in the Musée de l'Homme's in Paris was donated by Alphonse Pinart, an ethnographer who had bought it from Eugene Boban.

It was not until the twentieth century that the truth came out.  Studies demonstrated that the skulls were manufactured in the mid-nineteenth century. The skulls were crafted in the nineteenth century in Germany, quite likely at workshops in the town of Idar-Oberstein, which was renowned for crafting objects made from imported Brazilian quartz. This type of crystal was determined to be only found in Madagascar and Brazil, and thus unknown to the Aztecs or Maya.

In 1992, the Smithsonian investigated a Crystal Skull provided by an anonymous donor.  Supposedly, the artifact was of Aztec origin. The investigation concluded that this skull was made in the 1950s or later.

Legends of the Superstition Mountains


Thursday, February 03, 2022

Was Custer wiped out by a “Mysterious Renegade”?


In his book, Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn , Evan S. Connell tells us

 “News of the Little Bighorn calamity was at first discredited.  Americans could not believe that Sitting Bull had defeated General Custer….they refused to admit that an uneducated savage could have defeated a West Point graduate.  Therefore such a genius must be … a disguised renegade.  So it was alleged that a mysterious swarthy youth from the Great Plains, nicknamed “Bison”, had attended West Point and there absorbed the military science that laid General Custer low.” (Connell, 223) 

The Indian View of the Battle of the Little Bighorn