When we had first spoken to Dr Jane Walsh at the Smithsonian, scientists at the museum had suggested that if any of the skulls were highly anatomically accurate, then the chances were that they had probably been modelled on an actual individual. If this were the case then it might be possible to reconstruct that person’s face and their racial characteristics, if nothing else, would help determine where, and therefore possibly also when, the skull had been made.
As only one of the crystal skulls had fitted the description of ‘anatomically accurate’, we had not previously followed up on this test. The skull in question was the Mitchell-Hedges. In many respects the Mitchell-Hedges skull was already the most interesting, as this was the skull on which the Hewlett-Packard team had been unable to find any trace of tool marks. But with the forensic tests, Anna’s skull would not need to be involved in any intrusive tests, as it was standard practice amongst forensic experts to work with photographic images.
While Ceri pursued another avenue of research, I spoke to Richard Neave, medical and forensic artist at the University of Manchester’s Department of Art and Medicine. Richard is the UK’s leading specialist in facial reconstruction. Much of his day-to-day work is on behalf of the police, investigating murder and missing persons cases. On some occasions, the only piece of evidence is the decomposing body or just the skeleton of some unidentified victim. For over 25 years now it has been his job to reconstruct the original face of a person from their skeletal remains.
I visited Richard Neave at his studio in Manchester and presented Richard with our problem. There was a skull we wanted identified, not a real skull, but a crystal one. He was intrigued and wanted to know more. But, as I explained, I could not tell him anything else about it, or where it was thought to have come from, in case it influenced his judgement. Richard said that he was quite used to this. He was also required to work ‘in the dark’ on police cases for similar reasons. His only concern was that if the crystal skull he was given was already a copy of a real one, it might be too stylized or poor in its workmanship for him to properly identify the individual it had been copied from. But he was prepared to give it a try.
As I pulled out the photos, Richard’s eyes lit up. ‘It’s so beautiful and so anatomically accurate.’ He was so impressed with the accuracy of the skull he agreed to reconstruct an approximation of the face while I waited.
As Richard began drawing I asked him whether it might be possible to determine what sex the skull was as well as its racial group. He answered:
‘Quite possibly. On a real skull there are certain features which are associated with a male or female skull and it’s a matter of whether the maker of this skull has actually put these fairly discrete features in or not.
‘But it looks as though this skull has been copied from an actual skull. Though it doesn’t have every single tiny feature of a real skull, it includes almost all of the fine detail one would expect from a living original and it is certainly a good deal more accurate than one would expect if there had been no actual original specimen to copy it from. So the chances are it’s, er . . . that it’s going to speak for itself.
‘The proportions are very important. The mandible is rounded at the front and that tends to be associated with the female. The supercirial ridges over the eye here, they are very, very smooth, and that is another female feature. And the face itself has the sort of proportions that one might associate more with a female than a male skull. Female skulls tend to have bigger orbits in relation to the rest of the face than a male skull, and that’s what we’re tending to see here.’
I watched in amazement at Richard’s skill and workmanship as the original face on the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull slowly emerged right in front of me. As Richard continued to add the flesh over the skull and the image of the face gradually became clear, he explained:
‘It’s definitely not a European face. I would say that this face is in keeping with the facial characteristics of the indigenous population of the Americas, the American Indian peoples. It’s hard to say exactly which area. It’s certainly not dissimilar to the faces of the people I’ve seen from Central or South America, although I wouldn’t want to rule out the North American Indian population either.
‘But I would be absolutely certain that this skull is not European and it looks to me to be the face of a woman belonging to the indigenous population of the Americas.’
The face that emerged certainly looked to me to be that of a Native American woman. In fact it looked just like the faces I had seen in Central America.
So at last we had some definitive scientific information about the Mitchell-Hedges skull, independent of Anna and Frederick Mitchell-Hedges. In fact it transpired that similar tests had also been done in America in 1986. Anna Mitchell-Hedges had loaned the skull to Frank Dorland for further research and he in turn had loaned a plaster cast of it, together with various photographs, to a forensic artist who worked for the New York Police Department. This man, Detective Frank J. Domingo, had drawn a reconstruction of the face which was almost identical to the face Richard Neave had drawn . Interestingly enough, this was the same face that Frank Dorland claimed to have had presented to him by the crystal skull itself when he was in deep meditation.