In 2008, the fourth Indiana Jones movie, titled “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was released. The plot centered around a number of crystal skulls that were supposedly ancient, carved skulls that have special powers and, when they are all put together, they will give the holder great psychic power, which, in the movie, is why the Nazis are after the skulls.
One of the crystal skulls in the movie is thought to resemble the Mitchell-Hedges skull, which is a famous crystal skull purportedly discovered by Frederick A. Mitchell-Hedges in the 1930s while excavating in Belize.
An attorney for the director of the Institute of Archeology of Belize, on behalf of the nation of Belize, has filed a lawsuit against multiple parties, specifically, Lucasfilm and Paramount Pictures, for their illegal profits from using the skull that clearly resembles the one allegedly stolen from Belize. The issue in this case is not one of copyrighted material being used, since any copyrights related to the skull would surely have already expired, but one of using an, allegedly, illegally recovered artifact’s likeness in a movie and profiting from it.
Sacred Powers or Shady Scams?
Thus, the first hurdle that the Institute of Archeology of Belize must overcome is whether the crystal skull is authentic, i.e., did Mitchell-Hedges actually find it in Belize and steal it? There is a lot of controversy surrounding the crystal skulls.
A 2010 article in Archeology Magazine stated that the crystal skull is not very old and was probably made in Europe in the 20th century and has no sacred powers. Therefore, the skull likely did not come from Belize, and the story of its origin, as claimed by Mitchell-Hedges, was fabricated. Assuming this is correct, the Institute of Archeology of Belize will find it very difficult to recover any kind of alleged illegal profits from a skull that was not stolen from its country. If the skull was in fact stolen from Belize, the Institute of Archeology of Belize may be able to recover some profits derived from the unauthorized use of the likeness.
Till Death Do Us Part
On a side note, F.A. Mitchell-Hedges claimed that the skull was at least 3,600 years old and, according to legends, it was used by high priests of the Maya when they were performing esoteric rites. Additionally, when the high priest willed death, with the assistance of the skull, death inevitably followed. Mitchell-Hedges’ daughter, Anna, who inherited the skull after his death toured with the skull beginning in 1967 and continued to grant interviews about the artifact until her death in 2007.
This case could, potentially, open the door for claims relating to many other allegedly stolen artifacts and those profits stemming from their use. It will be an interesting case to monitor.