Monday, April 5, 2010


SKULL F-IN' WITH YA : Since the departure of our local newspaper’s only reliable reporter there hasn’t really been a story worth reading.

So it’s no surprise that, in their frantic search to fill their “news hole”, they reprinted a press release promoting a group of fraudulent hoaxters that raked in the dough on the island this weekend and today.

According to the article:

LIHU‘E — Billed by organizers as an “extraordinary event,” a public workshop with Max, an ancient crystal skull believed to hold healing powers and be one of the oldest artifacts known to man, is Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m...

Lee Patrick Hanks is traveling with Max, and in a press release said Max is one of the oldest artifacts known to man, with testing suggesting Max is between 12,000 and 36,000 years old, though others feel he could be much older than that.

A bargain- at $77 a pop for their “workshop”.

But according to Wikipedia:

The crystal skulls are a number of human skull hardstone carvings made from clear or milky quartz rock, known in art history as "rock crystal", claimed to be pre-Columbian Mesoamerican artifacts by their alleged finders. However, none of the specimens made available for scientific study have been authenticated as pre-Columbian in origin. The results of these studies demonstrated that those examined were manufactured in the mid-19th century or later, almost certainly in Europe. Despite some claims presented in an assortment of popularizing literature, legends of crystal skulls with mystical powers do not figure in genuine Mesoamerican or other Native American mythologies and spiritual accounts.

The whole story of the hoax- which started in the mid 18th century when a pre-Colombian art dealer named Eugène Boban started peddling one around the world- was exposed in an article by Jane MacLaren Walsh, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, in the May/June issue of Archeology Magazine.

Though the press release in the local newspaper refers to how the “British Museum and many other archaeological authorities consider Max to be one of the rarest artifacts ever found “ Walsh writes that:

These exotic carvings are usually attributed to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, but not a single crystal skull in a museum collection comes from a documented excavation, and they have little stylistic or technical relationship with any genuine pre-Columbian depictions of skulls, which are an important motif in Mesoamerican iconography.

They are intensely loved today by a large coterie of aging hippies and New Age devotees, but what is the truth behind the crystal skulls? Where did they come from, and why were they made?

She goes on to detail sixteen years of scientific inquiry into the subject after:

a heavy package addressed to the nonexistent "Smithsonian Inst. Curator, MezoAmerican Museum, Washington, D.C." was delivered to the National Museum of American History. It was accompanied by an unsigned letter stating: "This Aztec crystal skull, purported to be part of the Porfirio Díaz collection, was purchased in Mexico in 1960.... I am offering it to the Smithsonian without consideration." Richard Ahlborn, then curator of the Hispanic-American collections, knew of my expertise in Mexican archaeology and called me to ask whether I knew anything about the object--an eerie, milky-white crystal skull considerably larger than a human head.

Walsh details four “generations” of various crystal skull hoaxes since Boban, concluding by saying:

The skull that arrived at the Smithsonian 16 years ago represents yet another generation of these hoaxes. According to its anonymous donor, it was purchased in Mexico in 1960, and its size perhaps reflects the exuberance of the time. In comparison with the original nineteenth-century skulls, the Smithsonian skull is enormous; at 31 pounds and nearly 10 inches high, it dwarfs all others. I believe it was probably manufactured in Mexico shortly before it was sold. (The skull is now part of the Smithsonian's national collections and even has its own catalogue number: 409954. At the moment it is stored in a locked cabinet in my office.)

The local peep shows ended today and “Max” and his barkers are on to their next con job on some other “large coterie of aging hippies and New Age devotees” .

But in coming to Kaua`i these people sure knew where to find marks for their con.

Over the past month they paid $50 a pop for a series of paid email advertisements sent our by Richard Diamond (nee Moll) via his Museletter emailing list.

Kaua`i is thought to be a “vortex” for many mainland new agers and Diamond’s Museletter is the main place they go to find latest in new-age “services”.

Though Diamond’s popular daily listing of all things odd-ball “spiritual”- as well as various and sundry other more mundane offerings like cars and places for rent- is free, he also accepts paid advertising for “single page blasts” to his purported 2000 plus active addresses.

Diamond told us yesterday that he will send out the Walsh article via his Museletter when he comes back from his current vacation but declined to send out a “one page blast”- which are continuing while the Museletter is on hiatus- alerting his readers of the hoax.

The local newspaper has yet to publish anything else on the subject despite “comments” on the article at their web site replete with the URLs for both Walsh’s piece and the Wikipedia entry.

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