Investigative journalist George Knapp looks into the mystery surrounding a strange skull found in Mexico. A variety of experts give their opinions on the skull. Aired in May 1999 on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.
Scientists including pathologists and anthropologists are scratching their heads about the origins of a highly unusual skull. The mystery skull appears to be human but has several features which haven’t been seen before. Was it shaped by a medical condition or something more exotic?
“We don’t really know what we have here,” said skull researcher Lloyd Pye.
Pye is reluctant to state his true suspicions about this unusual skull because his theory sounds so outlandish. But the more evidence he compiles, the more convinced he is that this is truly weird. “We feel that this has the possibility of being one of the most important investigations ever in history,” he said.
It’s clear on the surface this skull is different from normal. For one thing, the bone is much lighter. The shape is radically different, bulbous on top and from the side appearing almost triangular. There are no sinus cavities. The eye sockets are remarkably shallow, and most significantly, the brain capacity is far larger than a normal human. “Wall to wall brain,” Pye said.
Pye and his partner Las Vegan Mark Bean tipped their hands on a website titled, “The Starchild Project.”
The skull was found alongside a normal skeleton at the bottom of a mineshaft in central Mexico many years ago. The region has legends about beings from space mating with the natives. A wild story, but the similarity between the mystery skull and aliens of popular lore occurred to others. When the skull was shown to a Nevada medical technician, Bean said the unnamed technician had this reaction, “We brought it out of the box and he looked at it and said, ‘Whoa, Mars Attacks.’ ”
Then at a Colorado medical lab, according to Pye, there was this reaction: “One of these gentlemen looked at me and said, ‘E.T., huh?’ ”
Clark County Coroner Ron Flood saw the skull on videotape and said, “When you look at movies that we’re used to seeing growing up, looks like an alien type thing.”
Resemblance or not, it will take a lot more evidence to convince science. Dr. William Rifley of Las Vegas is an expert at reconstructive surgery and has seen a lot of misshapen skulls. He says a condition known as cranial dysostosis might cause similar deformities. “These sutures, if they fuse, if they fuse together prematurely, there is nowhere for the brain to expand, it will cause a very abnormal geometric pattern to develop at the brain,” was Rifley’s reaction.
But Rifley admits he can point to no other skull like this one. And while dysostosis might result in a misshapen skull, it wouldn’t explain something else about the skull. The point at which this skull connected to the spine is very unusual.
“Its head was perfectly centered on the vertebrae,” said Mark Bean. “Where, as in a typical skull, the vertebrae sits towards the back of the skull, you can see the opening for the vertebrae is dead centered. As this is towards the back.”
It’s believed the skull was from a child that died around age 5. A child whose features would have been very different from other people.
Was caused it? “My suspicion is, this is some variation of a cranial dysostosis. But beyond that, I would not want to wager on it,” Rifley said.
Anthropologists at UNLV looked at the skull and believe it is the result of birth defects.
(Editor’s note: More than a decade after this report aired, genetic testing confirmed the skull was human.)