Mayan Skull Believed Magical Takes a Tumble in German Lab

The skull, made of volcanic rock, lost a chunk of its chin

By Sam Schulz
|  Friday, May 11, 2012  |  Updated 6:42 AM PDT
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German scientists dropped an ancient Mayan skull — one that perhaps resembled this relief sculpture from the "wall of skulls" at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza — and broke off a piece of its chin.

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If the world ends this year, one German scientist just might feel a little guilty about it.

An ancient Mayan skull made of volcanic rock and believed to have magic powers to protect humanity on Dec. 21, 2012 — the date widely interpreted by modern scholars to be that of the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar — somehow took a tumble and broke, UPI reported.

It was unclear whether the skull, named Quauthemoc, was dropped or simply fell. A piece of its chin chipped off in the accident.

"It was probably put down somewhere a bit wobbly," a witness told German tabloid Bild. "It's really tragic."

Quauthemoc, one of 13 allegedly magical skulls, is owned by an amateur historian, but it previously belonged to a monastery in Tibet before it was stolen by the Nazis and wound up in the hands of Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler.

After Himmler's arrest following the war, it eventually wound up in the hands of Thomas Ritter, who fortunately isn't too worried about the skull's new damage.

"The damage was fairly marginal, so I was quite relieved," Ritter told The Local. "I don't think it's a bad omen."

Ritter's cavalier attitude could be reinforced by the recent discovery of the oldest-known Mayan astronomical tables, as well as revelations by experts that suggest modern understandings of Dec. 21, 2012, as the date Mayans thought the world would end could be misguided.


"The ancient Maya predicted the world would continue, that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this," one expert on the ancient civilization told BBC News. "We keep looking for endings. The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It's an entirely different mindset."

Ritter will still be bringing his now-chipped volcanic skull to an ancient Mayan site in Mexico on the fateful date to meet with the owners of the other skulls.

"The prophecy says the skulls will reveal a secret knowledge to humanity on that day," he said. "The skulls might start speaking or something, but I have no idea."

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