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Belize Archaeologist Distances Himself from Indiana Jones Suit

14 December 2012 No Comment

The Belizean archaeologist at the centre of a lawsuit against the makers of an Indiana Jones film using the likeness of a crystal skull said that he has been misrepresented both in the claim itself and the media attention surrounding it, according to a manager of Belize’s Chaa Creek Natural History Centre.

Brion Young, assistant manager of the Chaa Creek NHC, which, among other activities, catalogues the Maya presence in Belize, was commenting on media reports that the Director of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize, Dr Jaime Awe, is suing the producers of the 2008 Harrison Ford film “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” for use without permission of one of Belize’s most iconic and controversial images, the Crystal Skull.

However, Mr Young said he has just received news that Dr Awe is disturbed by the reports and has said that he was unaware of the lawsuit, which was filed by promoters as part of a scheme to publicise celebrations to be held in Belize as part of the 2012 Maya Winter Solstice celebrations.

“It seems that Dr Awe, a serious Mayanist who is respected worldwide for his research into Maya civilisation, thought he was merely lending his name to an attempt on the part of the Government of Belize and Belize’s National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) to contact the present owners of the Crystal Skull. He had no idea it would result in this lawsuit.

“In fact, Dr Awe has never claimed to know with any certainty that the Mitchell-Hedges skull is authentic. He now wishes to disassociate himself and NICH from the promoters who launched the action,” Mr Young said.

Earlier, Mr Young was quoted as saying that the lawsuit at least highlighted the Maya’s battle to preserve their culture and counter misrepresentation of their civilisation in Western pop culture.  “With the approach of the 2012 Maya Winter Solstice we’re concerned that this rich, fascinating civilisation is presented respectfully and authentically,” he said.

“The ancient Maya were a highly advanced culture with one of the world’s first written languages, and an amazing record of achievements such as being some of the first people to make paper and build libraries, conduct complex heart and brain surgeries, calculate and predict the movement of celestial bodies with astounding precision, manage large scale urban planning and agriculture and so much more.

“However, rather than presenting the ancient Maya civilisation for what it actually was, producers of pop culture products such as the Hollywood blockbuster film 2012 depict the Maya as some primitive witch doctors using mumbo jumbo to arrive at spooky predictions about the end of the world, rather than early scientists doing some rather fascinating work, “ Mr Young said.

Now, it seems that once again the Maya, and serious Mayanists, have been misrepresented by outsiders seeking to capitalise on their name.

The Mitchell-Hedges skull has a long and chequered history. An adventurer, F.A. Mitchell-Hedges claimed that his daughter found the crystal skull at the Maya archaeological site of Lubaantun in Belize and that they took it from there to the US, an act which would have been as illegal then as it is now.

However, the veracity if the Mitchell-Hedges statements and the authenticity of the skull have always been disputed.

And now, almost a century later as one of the most important events in Maya cosmology, the 2012 Winter Solstice, is about to be celebrated on December 21, 2012, the crystal skull continues to stir controversy.

“Our weeklong 2012 Maya Winter Solstice celebrations at Chaa Creek will be all about educating people about this fascinating, enigmatic culture while having the party of the century. The emphasis will be on respectful authenticity, so I doubt very much that the Crystal Skull will be making an appearance,” Mr Young said.


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