Skulls are used for many scientific research purposes, and can teach us a lot about our ancestry and subsequent evolution. But skulls are also used to advance the dreaded pseudoscience of researchers and wishful thinkers. Here are the top 10 times people were fooled by mistaken “skull” identity.
Discovered by miners in 1866, this skull was used as a method for Josiah Whitney to argue in favor of creationism. He cited that this skull was from the ancient Pliocene age. However, various testing and radiocarbon dating revealed this skull to be just 1,000 years old. Oops.
This large cranium was found in Mexico in 1930, but was revealed to the public in 1999. People claimed it to be the skull of an alien, due to its bizarre size and shape. But independent DNA testing came out that revealed the skull was from a Native American child who likely suffered a congenital brain disorder causing its cranium to be enlarged. Supernatural theory goes out the window.
In 19th century Europe, doctors observed that some people had bulges in certain parts of their brain. Thus, they argued that people with large lesions tended to have heightened attributes which corresponded to those areas of the brain. But given the fact that neuroscience was such a new discipline at the time, it was later found that there was zero connection between skull shape and personal traits. However, phrenology helped get people interested in neuroscience, leading to other breakthroughs.
When this bizarre skull was found from a Dutch island in 1828, theories expounded that it was from a hybrid human species. The term hominid was thrown around, but researchers in 1912 found it to be the result of the islander’s making their children put on tight headwear. Despite an interesting theory of potential alien activity happening in the Netherlands, these people were actually mere homo sapiens.
In 1912, the “Piltdown man” was found in Piltdown, England. With a shape that looked to be half-man, half-ape, researchers were in shock. But as other ancient skulls have been found, it becomes more and more unlikely that this one is for real. It has gone down as nothing more than a major hoax.
Nothing like a hole in the head… Also known as the practice of trepanning. This was done in olden times to alleviate people of headaches and seizures, and didn’t always result in death. But it is still a pseudoscience used by people who aim to rid others of evil spirits and demons.
Another example of mistaking skulls for those of aliens, these LONG skulls were likely the result of skull deformation practices by indigenous people. But it could also belong to Neanderthals. Don’t worry, this practice doesn’t involve brain damage.
The military has alleged that it owns a large plot of land where big skulls are found, evidently. Helicopter photos revealed workers uncovering an enormous skull that was part of a giant skeleton. But it was revealed that this was a hoax. The images were used as jokes in email forwards for some time.
The subject of multiple feature films, crystal skulls are known for being 3,000 years old and created by Aztecs and Mayans. Unfortunately, the 13 skulls that have been found have all been made in Europe. Oh, and they were all less than 200 years old.
This “horned skull” was found in Pennsylvania, leaving people to believe this was some sort of animal-human beast. But it is possible that this individual suffered a skin tumor that gave them the illusion of horns. Imaginations have run wild with people surmising how these creatures may have had demonic powers.