"It is evident that the cult of the skull or at least skull worship, has been in the past a worldwide practice among
ancient peoples," Dorland says. "From the Pacific islands to Tibet, from Egypt to Mexico, skull worship is found in
every corner of the globe. And it seems that almost all of this practice held the skull in extremely high esteem.
It was worshipped and adored and saved and revered. The symbol of the skull as a gruesome ugly death head, seems to
be most common in the last fifteen hundred years.
"The actual quartz crystal skull is a magnificently sophisticated bit of masterful art and it has nothing at all to do
with death or mortality in the eyes of its original makers. It was believed to be a godhead-symbol of all encompassing
knowledged and wisdom. I believe it was a fountainhead of power and magical talisman."
Dorland, in his research, speculates that the Mitchell-Hedges skull could even represent earlier deities. He points out
two possibilities: Ea and Mazda.
"Ea was one of the three deities of the Babylonian pantheon and the lord of all wisdom. Mazda was an ancient Iranian
god, illuminator of the universe and another likely candidate. I think it logical that Ea and Mazda could possibly be
the same god, simply evolving in different areas. Both, for example, were gods of wisdom, both possessed a great and
encompassing love of man, and both were great magicians.
"Ea was the god of water and Mazda the god of light. Ea, being the water god, would be sculptured in a material
that represents exactly what he was: wisdom and water. The human brain box signifying wisdom and the quartz crystal
symbolizing water. It would have been relatively simple to manufacture the skull from gold or silver but it would not
be suitable for a water god."
Dorland has been unable to find any other god that would be so suitable to be carved from pure rock quartz.
But nowhere in the world has the skull motif had a greater importance than in the Central American cultures, both modern
and pre-Hispanic. In these cultures, the skull motif shows up in an astounding variety of forms. For instance, the center
of the Aztec-Calendar is a fleshless face; the Aztec god Xolotl, twin of Quetzalcoatl, had the face of a skull; mosaic inlays
of skulls were made by the Nahuas and the skull was an important thematic element in the gold work of the Mixtecs.
In Mexico, the skull is constantly used as an element in ceramics, reliefs and sculptures. It is used in arches
and pageantry, crafts, politics, the manufacture of toys; even tiny sugar skulls are a popular confection among the children.
One of the most popular holidays of the year is the Feast of All Saints--the Mexican Halloween. Many reasons have
been offered as an explanation for the prevalence of the skull motif in these cultures but none so intriguing as the possibility
that the skull could possibly be related to the development of the mathematical concept of zero by the Mayas.
It has been pointed out, notably in Indian Historian, the quarterly publication of the American Indian Historical
Society, that the skull motif was closely related to the Maya discovery of zero. The Mayas invented the sero around
200 B.C.--long before the concept evolved in other civilizations. It has further been suggested that the Mitchell-Hedges
crystal skull served as the archetype of the Mayan head variant for ten and that the skull was made as a sort of standard
for the concept.
Around a thousand years before the early Hindus civilization was credited with the development of the concept of zero,
this idea was already firmly planted in the intellects of the high Maya priests. Further, this mathematical concept
did not reach Western Europe until the Middle Ages--centuries after its development in the Western Hemisphere.
The possibility that Thor Hyerdahl suggests--that man traveled westward across the Pacific--might well explain the expansion
of this concept from a Central American culture to a civilization of the East.
At any rate, there is little quarrel among authorities that sometime around 200 B.C. the Mayan concept of zero was developed.
And as the late authority on the ancient Maya, Sylvanus G. Morley, commented, they developed man's first positional arithmetical
system, one involving the concept of zero "which even today stands as one of the brillian achievements of the human mind."
In what way, however, does the concept of a skull with a detachable jawbone and the prevalence of the skull symbolism
in Central American cultures have to do with mathematics? The answer porbably lies in the fact that the Mayan system
of notation is based on the number twenty (vigesimal) rather than by tens [as] in our decimal system. And just as we
use both Roman* and Arabic numerals, two sets of symbols were used by that culture, both employing the concept of zero. [*The
concept of zero is lacking in this notation. To reach the number of nineteen using the symbols of I, V, and X, a subtractive
process must be employed. The dot-bar system of the Mayas requires but simple addition.]
One is known as the "normal form", a system of bar and dot numerals in which a dot has the value of one and the bar a
value of five. In various combination the numbers from one to nineteen could be written. Zero in this system is
symbolized by the glyph of a shell.