The Crystal Skull
As seen in: Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
The Power: The Crystal Skulls are believed to have psychic powers, with the capability of transforming people's lives or holding thousands of years worth of information or serving a similar function to crystal balls to aid divination. What Cate Blanchett's Irina Spalko and her Russkie rogues want with the see-through cranium is still yet to be determined.
The Real Life Version: The most famous Crystal Skull was brought to light by British explorer F.A. Mitchell-Hedges. Mitchell-Hedges claimed his daughter Anna had found the skull buried under a collapsed altar inside a temple in Lubaantun in Belize. Referred to as the skull of doom, locals also told her the high priest employed the skull to bring death. Mitchell-Hedges toured with the skull from the sixties, before turning it over to art restorer Frank Dorland for testing. Dorland discovered that the skull had been carved against the natural axis of the crystal - meaning by all accounts it should have shattered. Dorland also found there were no microscopic scratches on the skull to indicate it had been carved with metal. Similar Crystal Skulls are on display in the British museum and Paris Trocadero, while Mayan and amethyst versions have also been discovered.
Some of the folklore surrounding Crystal Skulls suggests they were created by extra-terrestrials or beings from Atlantis. Another more outlandish theory is that the skulls have been left by Inner Earth Society people who live at the hollow centre of the Earth and that the thirteen skulls contain the history of this race. A more prosaic explanation is that Latin American artisans have carved them.
Perhaps most pertinent to KOTCS's supposed sci-fi plot-line is the skull discovered by a Mayan family near Guatemala in 1906. The skull, made from smoky quartz, is said to resemble an E.T. shape. Spooky.
The Movie Version: "There's 13 of them around the world and they are believed to have magical or healing properties or being full of the entire knowledge of the Universe," says producer Frank Marshall. "It's about power. If you look at the Ark of the Covenant - people get power hungry. That's what the journey is here - everyone is after this source of power."
Effectiveness as a MacGuffin: 1/5 If it ticks the box of real life credibility and intriguing mythos (ancient civilisations created by extra-terrestrials), it botches the mystery, wonder and plot potential embodied by previous Indy treasures. It should stay firmly in the "spaces between the spaces" where it belongs.