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The Man Who Invented Aztec Crystal Skulls: The Adventures of Eugène Boban

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The Man Who Invented Aztec Crystal Skulls

The Adventures of Eugène Boban

Jane MacLaren Walsh and Brett Topping

348 pages, 81 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-095-9 $130.00/£92.00 Hb Not Yet Published (November 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78920-096-6 eBook Not Yet Published

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“An excellent biography of a little-known but important figure in the nineteenth-century history of American archaeology…” • Norman Hammond, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge University


Eugène Boban began life in humble circumstances in Paris, traveled to the California Gold Rush, and later became a recognized authority on pre-Columbian cultures.  He also invented an entire category of archaeological artifact: the Aztec crystal skull. By his own admission, he successfully “palmed off” a number of these crystal skulls on the curators of Europe’s leading museums. How could that happen, and who was this man? Detailed are the travels, self-education, and archaeological explorations of Eugène Boban; this book also explores the circumstances that allowed him to sell fakes to museums that would remain undetected for over a century.

Jane MacLaren Walsh, anthropologist emerita at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, is an internationally recognized authority on crystal skulls and other fake pre-Columbian antiquities. Her most recent research combines geology and archaeology in a study of the iconic stone faces of Teotihuacan.

Brett Topping has been a professional writer and editor of arts and humanities publications for more than thirty-five years. During her career she was Editor at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and Director of Publications for the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA).

Subject: Museum Studies Archaeology
Area: Latin America


List of illustrations

Introduction: On the Trail of Crystal Skulls

List of abbreviations

Chapter 1. Caveat Emptor
Chapter 2. Between Old World and New
Chapter 3. Mexico: Ancient to Modern
Chapter 4. Mexico at Mid-Century
Chapter 5. The Emperor’s Antiquarian—A Collection Takes Shape
Chapter 6. Confronting a Different Paris
Chapter 7. Marketing a Collection
Chapter 8. A Premier Collection
Chapter 9. Narratives of Provenance
Chapter 10. The Rue du Sommerard Decade

Chapter 11. Of Fakes and Fakers
Chapter 12. From Student to Teacher – Dealer to Curator
Chapter 13. Good Deals and Bad
Chapter 14. Back in Business
Chapter 15. Fingerprints on Crystal Skulls
Chapter 16. Courting the Smithsonian
Chapter 17. Of Fakes, Forgers and Frauds
Chapter 18. “El Tocayo’s” Triumph
Chapter 19. Later Life
Chapter 20. Afterlife



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