SEM and EDS analysis of a purported ancient Himalayan crystal skull

John DeSalvo, Ph.D.
April 2, 2010

In the past several decades there have been reports that over a dozen ancient crystal skulls of various sizes were discovered in unidentified caves in the Himalayan region of China. Unfortunately, there is no documented archeological find and thus no provenance can be established. Several of these skulls, both small and large, were brought to the US about ten years ago and the author obtained one of the smaller ones.  There has been much controversy surrounding these skulls including claims of mystical phenomena and healing powers attributed to them. The Journal of Archaeological Science in 2008 published an article entitled The origins of two purportedly pre-Columbian Mexican crystal skulls by Sax, Walsh, (35:2751-2760) in which two well known crystal skulls, one located in the British Museum and the other in the Smithsonian Institution, were examined using a scanning electron microscope (SEM).  Manufacturing techniques were studied to identify the tools that were used to carve it. The conclusion, which was based on the tool marks found and the identification of a modern synthetic abrasive (carborundum - SiC), was that both skulls were not pre-Columbian but were carved with rotary wheels and produced in Europe during the nineteenth century. Because of the size of these skulls, they could not be examined directly under the SEM and thus detailed impressions were made of features of interest. These impressions or moulds were then studied under the SEM.

The present study is the first time in which an alleged ancient crystal skull was observed directly under the SEM.  The entire skull could be looked at and scanned and when areas of interest identified, more detailed enlargements could be made. Areas of interest that were identified were the eyes, nose, mouth, teeth and thus studied in greater detail. The SEM used was a "JEOL JSM-6490LV" which is a variable pressure scanning electron microscope. It produces a magnified images by scanning a focused electron beam across the surface of a sample and observing various signals produced when the electrons interact with the sample. In addition, the "Oxford Inca Energy250" energy dispersive spectrometer system (EDS) is attached to the SEM and allows for the examination of the chemical composition of materials. This was the first time an EDS was used on an alleged ancient crystal skull. Essentially, the EDS data gives the elemental composition of the specimen and thus we can identify coatings and other elements on its surface. This study was conducted at the University of Minnesota-Duluth Scanning Electron Microscope Lab located in the geology department. The SEM Laboratory Manager carried out the tests in collaboration with the author. An initial inspection of the crystal skull was done using a stereoscopic light microscope to identify interesting features which would be studied in more detail with the SEM. Numerous scans were taken at areas of interest and randomly across the skull and EDS data taken from various surface locations.  The data is currently being analyzed by both the SEM Laboratory Manager, the author, and various other researchers.  We hope to determine how the crystal skull was carved and identify the chemical makeup of its surface.


UPDATE 7-31-10

I will shortly be releasing some of the results of the SEM/EDS testing, but not all as it is not completed yet. The Scanning Electron Microscope and Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy tests were done at the University of Minnesota - Duluth SEM/EDS lab and conducted by the manager of that lab who is also a geologist. Much data was collected and real time scans and chemical analysis were done in key areas of the skull. The many pages of data and scan images were submitted to experts at four major universities in the US and Canada that had SEM/EDS labs. I am quite certain that I can conclude for sure if the skull is an ancient one or recently made. I will be discussing these findings shortly on late night talk radio shows.

Listen to Dr. John's Radio Interview about his Ancient Crystal Skull research

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