An appearance by “Max, the ancient crystal skull” and its owner — “keeper” in the words of press material — JoAnn Parks in a lecture on July 14 at Wendy Williamson Auditorium has been cancelled according to a posting at centertix.org.
It would have be the first visit to Alaska by both.
Fans of Indiana Jones (“Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”) will be familiar with the lore of these curious artifacts, supposedly carved by ancient Americans from clear quartz and possessing mysterious powers. Fans of Alaska poet John Haines, who wrote a long and much-anthologized poem, “Meditation on a Skull Carved in Crystal,” will be familiar with the emotional ruminations that can be triggered by them. Fans of premium vodka (Crystal Head, about $50 for 750 mL) will be familiar with their marketing appeal.
A press release from the presenter, Fourth Dimension Higher Awareness, said: “(Max) is estimated to be around 5,000-36,000 years old or greater” and has been featured in various documentaries on the crystal skull phenomenon — including one that would have been shown at the upcoming talk.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Parks said she received this skull from a Buddhist lama who received it from a Mayan shaman after it was discovered in a Central American tomb in the 1920s. She said that “Max” is the name the skull told her to call him.
Provenance for the dozen or so best known crystal skulls is reported to be somewhat less transparent than Max’s cranium. The one in the British Museum has been shown to have been made with modern tools, probably in Europe, probably within the last 150 years or so. The one in the Musée du Quai Branly in France was tested with particle accelerators and scanning electron microscopes by French scientists and determined to most likely have been carved in the late 19th century, certainly after 1740. The one in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History was carved using a modern abrasive, carborundum, and is displayed as a “modern fake.”
The sculpted skull displayed in France has a remote Alaska connection. It was sold to Alphonse Pinart by Paris antiquarian, Eugene Boban. (Boban also sold, to an American collector, the skull now in the British Museum.) Pinart is remembered as the adventurous Frenchman who collected rare Alutiiq masks in Alaska in the 1800s and brought them to France where they survived after most examples left in Alaska crumbled into dust. Long treated as cultural treasures in France, the meticulously documented Pinart masks are now studied by contemporary Alaskan artists. They were loaned to Anchorage and Kodiak museums a few years ago for a spectacular homecoming exhibit.
- Mike Dunham, Arts editor