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Lubaantun might seem like a pretty ordinary and common Maya ruins complex in southern Belize, but behind the physical ruins lies the mystery of the crystal skull – a human size skull made of clear quartz rock and claimed to have been made by the Mayas or to have come from aliens.  But is it a real crystal skull or is it a hoax?  But first, a bit of information on it’s supposed place of origin.

Lubaantun Ruins, Belize

Lubaantun: The Unusual Ruins

The city of Lubaantun (which means “place of fallen stones”) is dated to the Maya Classic era, flourishing from the AD 730s to the 890s, and completely abandoned soon after. Different from the other Maya cities of the era, the architecture of Lubaantun is somewhat unusual as the structures were mostly built of large stone blocks laid with no mortar.

Also, the stones were primarily black slate rather than the limestone typical of the region.  In addition, many step-pyramids have rounded corners, which is rare for the Maya civilization.  Today most, if not all buildings, have crumbled or lost most of their shape.

Lubaantun Ruins, Belize

There’s a theory that these ruins were like an ancient market that wasn’t built with the intention to last long, hence the lack of mortar and lack of stone structures atop the pyramids.  Still, even if it was a market, the place was considered sacred and it had to be pleasing to the gods.

Are these small characteristic differences what made this place special or worthy of a crystal skull?  Who knows… we can only assume for now.

Lubaantun Ruins, Belize

So, those few details about the place are somewhat interesting, but they pale in comparison to the infamous crystal skull.  The crystal skulls (yes, there’s more than one) are often claimed to have paranormal powers by some members of the New Age movement, and have often been portrayed as such in fiction books and movies like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (though they associated the crystal skull to the Incas of Peru… blame Hollywood on that!).

The Discovery, or The Hoax?

In 1924, Dr. Thomas Gann (who had already visited the ruins in 1903) led adventurer and fame whore F.A. Mitchell-Hedges to the site, who in his typically sensationalistic fashion published an article in the Illustrated London News claiming to have “discovered” the site.

Crystal Skull
Image from Wikipedia

The following year Mitchell-Hedges returned to Lubaantun as a reporter for the Illustrated London News, accompanied by his adoptive daughter, Anna Mitchell-Hedges.  Anna, who went to the ruins during her 17th birthday, would later claim that it was she who found the crystal skull partially buried inside a small shrine.  Nice birthday present, eh?!

Sounds like an interesting archeological finding, right?  Well, it is believed that this is nowhere near a real archeological find, but just a pure hoax.

First, there is no evidence that Anna was ever in Belize.  Second, if the skull actually had been excavated at Lubaantun, it would be hard to explain why none of the official reports mention it, why other expedition members deny that it was found there, and why fame whore Mitchell-Hedges did not publish even a single mention of the skull before the 1950s (over 25 years later).

In addition, there are no legends or writings of crystal skulls with mystical powers in genuine Mesoamerican or other Native American mythologies and spiritual accounts.  Though, it’s important to note that genuine crystal skulls have been found in Mexico, but those have no supernatural related powers and are way smaller than the Lubaantun skull.

But, here’s the deal breaker.  It is clear from investigations that the skull was not found at Lubaantun at all, but was actually purchased by Mitchell-Hedges at a Sotheby’s auction in 1943.  Busted!!!

There are many more details that point against this skull being authentic, yet still, many people believe in it to be real, to have a true connection with the Mayas or aliens, and to have paranormal activity.  Who knows…

Lubaantun Ruins, Belize

Despite the fact that the major point of interest of this somewhat neglected site is a total hoax (as I firmly believe), Lubaantun it’s still a good half-day trip to do while at the Toledo District in Belize.  The ruins are surrounded in nature and the place offers serene views of the ancient city.  Since it is not highly visited, it’s easy to experience the place on your own, relax, meditate, or just to enjoy it at your own pace.  One of the most distinguished features of Lubaantun is the small museum with a collection of miniature ceramic objects found on site.  Maybe those were some of the products sold there at some point in history.  They are very artistic and elaborate and speak more about the Maya culture than the ruins themselves.

So, what about you… do you believe in the Crystal Skull?

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    1. Thanks Grace! Well, the skull does exists but according to the facts I’ve been presented it is fake. Supposedly, the Skull is in the US now, but in private possession, and they don’t allow further studies on it. Hmmm… I wonder why?!

      Oh, I agree, it does for a good Hollywood plot. Maybe the writers of the last Indiana Jones knew about this skull.

      1. LOL about the last Indiana Jones!

        The skull looks beautiful though. I mean, it’s crystal (or so they claim). Too bad it’s been associated with being fake.

        1. It’s bad this one is fake, but there are a few real crystal skulls out there… though not as elaborate as this one.

  1. Although it would be pretty fascinating if the crystal skull was real, I still think it’s a hoax. I don’t doubt that the Incas were capable of this sort of thing but I don’t think there’s enough proof or evidence for me to believe in it…at the moment anyways. But you never know, there have been beliefs further out there than this that has been known to be truth. Only time will tell.

    1. I agree, it would be really cool if it was real and if it actually was an alien skull. But, it’s pretty obvious that it is fake.
      Well, there is proof that the Aztecs had some sort of technology that allowed them to carve crystal skulls, but they never were as big or as perfectly carved as this one. As records say, this skull has no tool marks, and the mandible moves. But anyways, there’s proof that it was made in France and later auctioned. I wonder if the archeologist thought no one would ever find the truth about the auction. ha!

  2. Great blog and story Norbert!

    p.s. With reference to your first paragraph: Maybe it’s just that I’ve never had a chance to visit them (and I’ve always been fascinated by them), I don’t think any Mayan ruins complex can be ordinary! 🙂

    1. haha, I agree with you Abhijit. No Maya ruins are ordinary. They all have a charm and interest in one way or another.

  3. Leading Belizean archaeologist, Dr. Jaime Awe publicly states that its a FAKE! He said that for years he has been asking for it so that he can do tests but the owner doesn’t want to comply. Honesty always prevails.

    1. Lorenzo, I’m glad you brought that point as you are right. I had the chance to meet Dr. Awe (and Joe Awe too) and they both agreed that it was a total fake. He mentioned exactly what you just told about the denial to perform further testings and how they figured out it was made in France and acquired in an auction. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. hoaxes. so annoying, still, an interesting story nonetheless. it seems that all the history surrounding the maya is enthralling, even the fake bits! would love to check out the sites in belize. and even if the crystal skull is just a myth, there are so many ridiculously incredible discoveries made, and waiting to be made.

    1. I agree with you Jamie. Maya history is so interesting, even these fake bits. I do recommend visiting the Maya ruins in Belize. I visited a few and they were all worth watching. What’s interesting is that many of their ruins are still being excavated and they are still making discoveries every now and then.

    1. I didn’t know about the crystal skull existence until I went there (with the exception of the fictional ones in Indiana Jones… haha!).

  5. That’s an interesting story. It’s clear so many people want to see more in an artefact than there actually is, or wish a historic site had some mystery to it that was begging to be solved. It’s human curiosity 🙂 Loved reading the story, thanks Michael!

    1. Human curiosity and mystery… I think that’s what make us wonder so much about the Maya civilization and be so interested and entertained by the mysteries still waiting to be uncovered.

    1. hahahaha!! They do look creepy! Some say the crystal skulls came actually from the aliens… who knows… at least this one is bogus!

  6. You know I loved learning about the Mayans in Central America but it always seems so odd that such a bright civilization died out the way it did. Maybe they were too focused on crystal skulls…

    1. It seems really odd, I agree. But recently I’ve started to understand it a bit better as I’ve been visiting more sites an ruins. Haha! Like you said, maybe they were too focused on crystal skulls! 🙂

  7. True or not, it’s always exciting to go to an ancient site that has been talked about a lot in history and has all kinds weird stories relating to it.

    1. I agree, Mark. Those ancient sites are always interesting. Even just for the mystery of why they stopped being used or for what was their purpose and use.

  8. Wow, what an awesome view. Amazing how the trees can support itself growing on the brick structure like that.

  9. so, the latest indiana jones movie was based on a hoax?! no wonder why it was such a crappy movie. nice photos you’ve got here. looks so lush and calming.

    1. Ha!! Could be the reason why the movie wasn’t as good!
      Oh yes, Lubaantun is completely serene… great place to go and relax!


    1. I’m not looking to defunct any possibilities, I’m just giving my perspective from my own research. It is open to interpretation.


  12. I always had loved the mystery of the skull. Eventually I dd my own research on it, found out about the hoax. Since I work in archaeology I get asked many times about the skull and sometimes I wonder if I come clean about what I know, or let the legend live on. But I always give my honest perspective, and allow others to research on their own, make up their own minds……and yeah…Lubaantun is truly serene….

    1. Antonio, there’s something nice about legends, and this one in particular caught my attention from the very beginning. It was slowly through my research, like you, that I found about the origins and truth about the skull. Many still believe it’s real, and of course, they have their reasons to, but I personally don’t believe in it, so that’s why I decided to write this post. But hey, Lubaantun is still as amazing with or without a real skull!

  13. Well, I was believing it until I read about Mitchell-Hedges purchasing the skull at an auction. But like you say, who knows?? Super interesting piece, Norbert.

    1. Thanks Cathy! Exactly, who knows?! I believed in the skull at the beginning too, and was super excited about the history and the legend… and like it happened with you, once I learned about the purchase of the skull, I kind of felt disappointed. I secretly wanted a real crystal skull! haha But, Lubaantun itself is an impressive site to witness, real skull or not.