Temples, human sacrifices and a mysterious crystal skull

LUBAANTUN, BELIZE–It’s a nondescript area of the Mayan ruins here, the original entrance to what is now known as Lubaantun, or “place of falling stones.” But it’s the site of an enduring modern mystery.

Mayan guide Nathaniel Mas gestures beyond a stone altar towards to a grassy corner. “The crystal skull was found there,” he says, casually. And thereby hangs a tale.

The mystical skull was supposedly discovered on New Year’s Day of 1924, by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, an orphan from Port Colborne, Ont. Anna had been adopted by British adventurer and story-spinner Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, who was excavating the Lubaantun ruins, looking for clues about the lost city of Atlantis.

Remarkably, it just happened to be Anna’s 17th birthday.

She had spotted something shining deep inside a chamber of the ruins and was lowered by ropes to investigate. What she found was a wondrous piece of quartz crystal carved in the shape of a skull. The detachable crystal jawbone was found later.

Now aged 100, Anna Mitchell-Hedges still has the skull, though it is mostly kept locked away in a bank vault. Anna moved away from her Kitchener home more than a decade ago and now stays with friends in the United States.

“She’s in good health,” Bill Homann, one of those friends, told the Star in a recent telephone interview. “She has some aches and pains but we all have that.”

There’s still intense interest in the skull, Homann says – he and Mitchell-Hedges are planning to give a couple of lectures on it in New York and Arizona later this year.

But controversy continues to swirl around the skull and the story of its discovery, particularly after it was revealed that Frederick Mitchell-Hedges had bought the skull at a Sotheby’s auction in 1943.

It is one of 13 such crystal skulls apparently discovered in Mayan and Aztec ruins. The Lubaantun skull, however, is remarkable for the clarity of the crystal and the skill and detail of the carving. Other examples, including one in the British Museum in London, are cruder, more stylized and lack the detachable jawbone.

“It’s a remarkable piece of craftsmanship but that’s all it is,” paranormal investigator Joe Nickell told the Kitchener-Waterloo Record‘s Colin Hunter in 2005, adding that he doubted Anna’s story: “I would say (Anna’s) veracity seems no better than her father’s.”

Nathaniel Mas gives a dismissive shrug when I ask him what he thinks. “There are different stories and lots of rumours,” he says.

Tucked away in southern Belize, neither Lubaantun or nearby Nim Li Punit are as well known as some of the major Mayan sites in Mexico and Guatemala. Nor have they been as extensively restored; you need to bring your imagination with you, along with a bottle of water and some stout shoes.

Read the whole story here: http://www.thestar.com/Travel/article/196456

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