CHICAGO (CN) - Belize claims LucasFilm and Disney profited from an ancient Mayan crystal skull looted from an archaeological site in 1924 and used as the basis for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull;" it wants money and it wants the skull.
Jamie Awe, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Archeology of Belize, sued William Homann, the Estates of Anna and F.A. Mitchell-Hedges, LucasFilm, Walt Disney Co., and Paramount Pictures, in Federal Court.
The museum director claims Mitchell-Hedges and his daughter looted the artifact from the temple of Lubaantun in 1924.
"While steeped in Maya culture, the nation of Belize is often overlooked as a source of antiquities of this ancient civilization," the complaint states. "Nonetheless, much like the widely noted experiences involving Mexico and artifacts from its pre-Columbian Aztecan history, Belize was also an epicenter for nineteenth and early twentieth-century treasure hunters plundering the nation's Maya ruins under the guise of 'archaeology.' Most notable among the artifacts stolen from Belize are the 'Crystal Skulls' and the Maya 'Codices.' This cause of action seeks the return of Belize's most notable Crystal Skull."
Known as British Honduras until 1963, Belize is the only Central American country whose primary language is English. It has been a pirate hangout for centuries.
"The one constant throughout Belize's history, however, has been its Maya heritage and indigenous people," the complaint states. "The country is littered with Maya archaeological sites. Most notable among them are Xunantunich, which served as an ancient civic center and is one of the few major archaeological ruins accessible by modern roads, Lubaantun, Caracol, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech and Lamanai. Heavily dependent upon its fledgling tourism industry as a major part of its economy, Belize has an immense interest in the preservation of such sites and the artifacts associated therewith.
"And while today archaeologists, anthropologists and tourists alike are drawn to destinations such as Xunantunich in the name of discovery, in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Belize was coveted for entirely different reasons. Among the countless individuals who came to Belize in order to exploit its natural resources and to discover 'treasures' such as artifacts and remove them from the country in the pursuit of monetary gain, each often funded by governments such as Spain and Great Britain, one of the most well-known of them was F.A. Mitchell-Hedges. A self-proclaimed "adventurer", Mitchell-Hedges is believed to have first arrived in Belize in the early 1920's. It was on one of Mitchell-Hedges' initial forays into Belize that he would come into possession of a 'Crystal Skull.' A Crystal Skull is a hardstone carving resembling a human skull and is usually carved from clear or milky quartz. These artifacts are attributed to Maya origin. Associated in today's popular culture with having magical or other supernatural powers, each of the four known Crystal Skulls holds tremendous value not only for its rarity but also as a semi-precious stone. There are only three Crystal Skulls on public display worldwide: the British Museum in London, England; the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, France; and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C."
F.A. Mitchell-Hedges's adopted daughter, Anna Le Guillon Mitchell-Hedges, found a crystal skull buried under a collapsed altar in the temple ruins of Lubaantun in 1924, "a fact she would disclose in a documentary produced by NBC Peacock Productions in