One of the highlights of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden has turned out to be a fake, Dutch media reported on Friday.
A Mexican mosaic-covered skull, bought in 1963 for $20,000, was made in the last century, possibly by a local dentist and is not hundreds of years old as previously thought.
‘It is probably not as real as we thought it was,’ conservator Martin Berger is quoted as saying. While the skull does come from Mexico, the glue used to attach the mosaic dates from the last century.
Berger began to have doubts about the piece after questions were raised about a similar skull in a French museum. It now seems likely the skull was made by a Mexican dentist who is known for decorating skulls, together with his wife.
A number of the dentists’ skulls are in ‘respectable’ museums, Berger said.
The museum has no plans to remove the skull from its collection. Instead, the story about how its true origins were discovered have become part of the exhibition.