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Indian Jones takes on the Crystal Skulls

Well, it's pretty well known by now that the fourth Indy film has a title: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. With the title, comes a huge hint as to what the highly secret plot will revolve around (though I've run across some interesting articles and speculation online, or if you are into spoilers, you can check out IESB's latest).

I vaguely remember running across the crystal skull phenomenon in the past, but I had to actually do some online research to find out exactly what they are. Essentially, they are human skulls carved in crystal of unknown origins with an abundance of speculation attached to them. The most famous of the skulls seems to be the Mitchell-Hedges skull, first claimed to have been discovered in 1927 inside an ancient temple in Belize by the 17 year old adopted daughter of English explorer/adventurer/writer F. Mitchell-Hedges. While that story seems to have been fabricated, it doesn't stop legends and myths to abound--everything from being ancient magical items to alien made. Some believe they have mystical healing properties, while others that they'll reveal human origins and destiny if all of them are brought together. I even ran across a legend that the skulls were carried by the Knights Templar.

Heh. It's not hard to see why they're appealing to the Indiana Jones franchise.

So, is there any teeth to these legends? A 2005 article on History News Online says this about the one of the skulls at the British Museum:
Some say it has mystical powers derived from its ancient origins as an Aztec symbol of death. Others believe it is one of 13 crystal skulls that will foretell the destiny of humankind when brought together in the same place.

Whatever legends are attached to the crystal skull of the British Museum in London, one fact stands out. No other object in the museum's extensive collection has acquired such a cult following from New Age devotees. Now, however, science can finally set the record straight and, in doing so, shatter one of the most enduring myths of an object steeped in historical fantasy. The crystal skull is a fake.

A detailed analysis of the skull's surface has revealed that it was cut and polished with the sort of rotating wheel common in the jewellery houses of 19th-century Europe but absent in pre-Columbian America.

Historians and scientists believe that the skull was cut from a piece of Brazilian rock crystal by a lapidary in Europe, possibly Germany, and then sold to collectors as a relic from the ancient Aztec civilisation of Mexico. . . .
If you want to know more about the skulls, check out Wikipedia or Google the numerous articles cropping up in the entertainment media.

One last note. One of the things that appeals to me about the Indy series is its use of artifacts that have an allure to us because they speak volumes about our longing or sense that there is more to this world than what we can see and touch. While items like the Ark and the Holy Grail are more overtly related to the Christian faith, the skulls have the potential to touch on that same subject. And that brings God-talk into open spaces.