Wie ich an anderer Stelle bereits geschrieben habe, war ich in der letzten Woche in London – insbesondere wegen eines Besuches im Britischen Museum. Eines der Fundstücke ist mir „besonders“ aufgefallen, da es nicht wie die anderen „aktiv“ ausgestellt wurde: der Kristallschädel des Britischen Museum.

Kristallschädel im Britischen Museum, London. Photo: Markus Pezold.

Das Museum nutzt die aktuellen Forschungsergebnisse zu den Kristallschädel – um etwas abseits – diese Fälschung des 19. Jahrhunderts zu präsentieren. U.a. mit einer Infotafel – in dem die Hintergründe des Fundstückes um Eugène Boban und die moderne Erforschung verwiesen wird.

Auf der Internetseite des Britischen Museums finden sich zwei Beiträge über den Kristallschädel, welche die Hintergrund über das Fundstück darstellen sowie Informationen über aktuelle Forschungen liefern. Demnach ist der Schädel eine moderne Fälschung.

Rock crystal skull

Probably European, 19th century AD

Large quartz crystal skulls have generated great interest and fascination since they began to surface in public and private collections, during the second half of the nineteenth century. Some of them have been attributed to the work of ancient Aztec, Mixtec or even Maya stone workers in Mexico. Others are said to be examples of colonial Mexican art, for use in churches, perhaps as bases for crucifixes.

Hier geht es zum gesamten Text: Rock crystal skull

The crystal skull
What is it?

A life-size carving of a human skull made from a single block of rock crystal (a clear, colourless variety of quartz). It was acquired by the Museum in 1897 purporting to be an ancient Mexican object. However scientific research conducted by the Museum has established that the skull was most likely produced in the nineteenth century in Europe. As such the object is not an authentic pre-Columbian artefact.

How did it enter the collection?

The skull was purchased by the Museum from Tiffany and Co, New York in 1897. At the time of its purchase, the skull was said to have been brought from Mexico by a Spanish officer before the French occupation (in 1863). It was sold to an English collector and acquired at his death by Eugène Boban, a French antiquities dealer, later becoming the property of Tiffany and Co. The skull was exhibited for many years at the Museum of Mankind in Piccadilly (which housed the British Museum’s Ethnographic collection), it is currently on permanent display at the British Museum in the Wellcome Trust Gallery.

What scientific research has been undertaken?

The British Museum has examined the skull several times between 1950 and 1990. In 1996, a collaborative project focusing on the British Museum’s skull and a skull in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC was started. Contrary to popular belief, there are no satisfactory scientific techniques which can be used to accurately establish when a stone object was carved. Research has therefore focused on how the skulls were carved, where the quartz originated from and what is known about the early history of the skulls. Observations made with a binocular microscope and in a scanning electron microscope show that the techniques used to carve the skulls post date the ancient Aztec period. The tool marks on the skulls are very different to those on ancient Mexican rock crystal objects, which were carved by hand. The British Museum skull was extensively worked with lathe-mounted rotary wheels (jeweller’s wheels), which were unknown in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans. The research also shows that the large block of rock crystal suitable for the British Museum skull did not come from a source within the ancient trade network of Mexico. It is likely to have originated from a source in Brazil or Madagascar. The results of this research have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science and are available online: Sax, M., Walsh, J.M., Freestone, I.C., Rankin, A.H. and Meeks, N.D., Journal of Archaeological Science (2008).

Hier geht es zum gesamten Text: The crystal skull

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