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An Ancient Hebrew Inscription in New Mexico

Fact or Fraud?

by James D. Tabor

The standard textbook wisdom that we all learned from grade school on up is that the Americas were discovered by the Europeans either in 1492 by Columbus, or perhaps even a few hundred years earlier by the Vikings. There seems to be an aversion among the establishment historians to even consider the idea that ancient Mediterranean peoples might have traveled to the Americas in the centuries before our era. Except for certain “fringe” scholarship, particularly promoted by Mormon historians, the standard view is considered indisputable. The very idea that “primitive” peoples from Cyprus, Phoenicia, Greece, or Iberia had the sailing sophistication to cross the Atlantic is thought to be improbable if not absurd.

There are a few notable exceptions. Dr. Cyrus Gordon, one of the greatest living historians of ancient Near Eastern civilizations has promoted the idea that such peoples reached the New World for the past several decades. Actually, when one digs around a bit, it turns out that the historical and archaeological evidence is quite impressive. It has been well documented by Barry Fell in his major study, America B.C. (New York: Pocket Books, 1989).

One of the most fascinating sites Dr. Fell surveys is located south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a few miles west of a little town called Los Lunas. The site has been known as “Mystery Mountain” by the locals for many years. At the foot of a mini-Masada like natural plateau there is an inscription written in paleo-Hebrew. The inscription contains a slightly abridged version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. Anyone who is familiar with the Hebrew language, and the well-established ancient Hebrew alphabet used prior to the Common Era, can easily read this inscription.

los lunas stone
Click Image for Larger View


The question is—how did it get there? Is it a fraud, perpetrated by some pranksters for amusement purposes? If so, it could not be much older than this century since the paleo-Hebrew alphabet was only discovered from archaeological inscriptions in the Middle East over the past 100 years. Or, is it possible that it was put there much earlier, by Jews or Israelites who had settled in the area we know as New Mexico when paleo-Hebrew was in common use—that is in the centuries B.C.E. To even suggest such an idea, for most, is to immediately dismiss it. However, when the Los Lunas inscription is placed in the wider context of an abundant amount of evidence, such as that presented by Dr. Fell, that ancient Mediterranean peoples did visit the New World, it becomes not only plausible but perhaps the only logical explanation for the existence of this text.

In September, 1996 I visited the Los Lunas site with a group of associates for an initial survey of the evidence. I have also interviewed Prof. Frank Hibben, local historian and archaeologist from the University of New Mexico, who is convinced the inscription is ancient and thus authentic. He reports that he first saw the text in 1933. At the time it was covered with lichen and patination and was hardly visible. He was taken to the site by a guide who had seen it as a boy, back in the 1880s. Thus we have eye-witness evidence, going back over a hundred years, that the inscription existed. This alone is impressive, since it is rather preposterous to imagine some pranksters or forgers operating with a knowledge of paleo-Hebrew in the late 1800s, when this ancient alphabet was not even fully known to the scholars.

Associated with the inscription is the mountain itself, which shows evidence of fortification and ancient habitation, whether by native Americans or whomever. The Decalogue inscription is located at the foot of the mountain, on the north, at the only accessible pathway going up. The top of the mountain is a flat plateau with many ruins. The whole area is covered with drawings on rocks called petroglyphs. One of the most interesting of these petroglyphs is what appears to be a sky-map, laid out on a flat rock, recording the positions of the planets and constellations during a solar eclipse. Researcher David Deal, to whom we owe credit for a drawing of the site, has identified the eclipse astronomically as occurring on September 15, 107 B. C. E. I have run that date on a sophisticated computer calendar that does conversions to the ancient Hebrew calendar and surprisingly, that date turns out to fall on Tishri 1st, or Rosh HaShanah of that year—107 B.C.E.! Mr. Deal, who first did the astronomical calculations, was not even aware of this correlation. It might well be the case that the ancient Israelites who lived on this mountain, and left their inscription of the Ten Commandments at the “Gate” of the camp, also recorded an eclipse that happened to fall on a very important day in their sacred calendar.

America B.C by Berry Fell

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I have become tentatively convinced that the Los Lunas inscription offers solid evidence that ancient Israelites explored and settled in the New World in the centuries before the Common Era. Whether we can precisely date this encampment, based on Mr. Deal’s astronomical evidence, remains in discussion. However, I have little doubt, nor does Dr. Gordon, who is one of the world experts on ancient inscriptions, that the text itself is authentic and was written sometime B.C.E. Beyond this we can not go at this point in time. What is needed is a rigorous archaeological examination of the whole mountain and its human artifacts. It was obvious to us, even from our brief survey last Fall, that the site has been inhabited by successive peoples. We would have to have coin and pottery evidence to more precisely identify these remains and correlate them, if possible, with the inscription itself. The author is in the process of investigating possibilities for just such an investigation, led by qualified experts in archaeology. In the meantime I would encourage any of our Bulletin readers who are interested in this subject to read Dr. Barry Fell’s book, America B.C., which is readily available in major bookstores.

For more on other interesting finds, visit the site:Some Archaeological Outliers


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Imagine hiking near Los Lunas, New Mexico, and coming upon a huge basalt boulder inscribed as shown in the illustration.

Ten Commandments in Old Hebrew Script

This is obviously not an Indian petroglyph. Rather, it is the Ten Commandments set down in an old Hebrew script. The script and its translation seem unmysterious. What everyone wants to know is: Who chiseled it and when? It was apparently discovered in the 1880s. Harvard anthropologist Frank C. Hibben visited the site in 1930 and pronounced the inscription to be at least 100 years old. Who in New Mexico in 1830 knew ancient Hebrew? The inscription may be much older, for the whole boulder, weighing 60-80 tons, is tipped 20-30�, probably by geological forces, so that the lines of script are tilted.

(Underwood, L. Lyle; "The Los Lunas Inscription," Epigraphic Society, Occasional Publications, vol. 10, no. 237, 1982.)

Comment. Is it all a hoax? Some think so. It is easier to live with a hoax than with the thought of a Hebrew outpost in New Mexico a couple thousand years ago. It should be remarked that there are many purported Hebrew and Roman finds in the American Southwest; viz, the Tucson lead crosses with their Roman inscriptions.

Reference. More anomalous epigraphy is to be found in our Handbook: Ancient Man. For more on this book, visit: here.


From Science Frontiers #25, JAN-FEB 1983. � 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

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The Los Lunas Inscription

America's ancient Indian's called it the "Cliff of the Strange Writings". It has been named Phoenician Rock or the Commandment Stone. It is called today Inscription rock. Located west of Los Lunas, New Mexico at the base of Mystery Mountain (also called Hidden Mountain) this rock has been raising some eyebrows.

The strange chiseled characters on the volcanic basalt rock were undecipherable by America's early European settlers and to the "native" Indians. (Hence, the mountain's name - Mystery). The local residents had been made aware, by the Indians, of the unusual inscription as early as the year 1800. Why is this rock causing such excitement?

The stone preserves an abbreviated form of the Ten Commandments as written in Exodus 20,  which is very exciting, but what makes this stone an enigma is the fact that the writing is clearly semitic in origin. The ancient Hebrew inscriptions were once thought to be a combination of Greek, Hebrew and Phoenician characters but now are clearly seen as a form of Hebrew writing dating to approximately 1000 B.C.! The Greeks "borrowed" from the Phonetic alphabet so the characters would be familiar. The Hebrews and the Phoenicians were neighbors which, in their trading environment, shared the same language and alphabet. The style of the characters is strikingly similar, almost identical, to that used on the Moabite Stone in the days of the Israelite kings Omri and Ahab. The Moab stone was engraved by captive Israelites for the Moabite king, Mescha, as per its own inscription. After examining the Los lunas site geologist, George Morehouse, estimated the placement of this Decalogue inscription up to 3000 years ago, which would, again, date it around 1000 B.C.  Just how were historians to explain how a seventy ton boulder with Hebrew inscription appeared on this mountain landscape in North America around 1000 B.C.?

Over two thousand years before Columbus "discovered" America there were people of semitic origin in New Mexico worshipping the God of Israel. How can this possibly be reconciled with known history? It is seemingly apparent that the financial backing to launch a Hebrew-Phoenician voyage of world exploration could have readily occurred during the reign of King Solomon of Israel. Solomon worshipped the true God of Israel and had the means to fund explorative voyages to other lands. With Solomon's main port being located on the Red Sea it would be difficult to explain how his fleet would  have entered America through the Atlantic drainage. ( Reference note:1Kings 9:26 And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom.27 And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon.)

Tarshish , however, had access to the Atlantic. The reign of Solomon was enveloping the entire world. Israel's close neighbor, Phonecia, and their expert navigators were working with the servants of Solomon  from both countries ports. The ships of Tarshish sailed extremely long voyages to bring back all kinds of raw materials and items (copper & other ores, flora & fauna samples, "exotic" animals, etc.). ( Reference note:2Ch 9:21 For the king's ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.) It would help explain the need of three year journeys if the seamen had to cross the ocean to come to these far off isles in America. The fact that the trading ships of Phoenicia did have docks in ancient America can be proved from inscriptions they left behind. ( See Dr. Barry Fell's book  America B.C. and also reading Steven M. Collins The "Lost" Ten Tribes of Israel...Found!  is highly recommended) The Los Lunas site is located along the Puerco River which is tributary of the Rio Grande River. The Rio Grande is definitely in the Atlantic drainage. It would have been  entirely possible for the Hebrew-Phonecian sailors to access the area of the stone.

We must realize that our history was written by the Greeks (and Romans) and is told entirely from their self-glorifying viewpoint which sometimes tends to omit other nations contributions to the world. Columbus didn't discover America. How is it that there were people (some of semitic features) already living in America for centuries before Columbus? Ancient colonists and prospectors? Why is it that some of the words and alphabet characters of these ancients also resemble Hebrew or Ibunic-Phoenician? How is it that some of the same pagan gods and symbols were worshipped on both ends of the earth simultaneously? And is there any other explanation why the commandments of the God of Israel would be written in the middle of the North American continent in Hebrew characters?


The inscription has been translated by the Epigraphic Society as follows:

I (am) Jehovah [the Eternal] Eloah [your God] who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim [Mizraim or the two Egypts] out of the house of bondages. You shall not have other [foreign] gods in place of (me). You shall not make for yourself molded (or carved) idols [graven images]. You shall not lift up your voice to connect the name of Jehovah in hate. Remember you (the) Sabbath to make it holy. Honor your father and your mother to make long your existence upon the land which Jehovah Eloah [the Eternal your God] gave to you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery (or idolatry). You shall not steal (or deceive). You shall not bear witness against your neighbor, testimony for a bribe. You shall not covet (the) wife of your neighbor and all which belongs to your neighbor.


The Los Lunas Commandment Stone is one of several proofs that exist in America that the ancients of Israel, including both the worshippers of the false gods such as Baal and of the True Eternal God, walked on this continent long before Columbus or any of the 14th century European explorers. It is also another proof that biblical history is accurate. In the past, when a "new" world kingdom came into power they had the option of re-writing how their history and the history of those in subjection to them would be remembered. It was not uncommon to strike out the good things acheived by a former power that was now in subjection or exile. Or even to ascribe the glory of the former powers conquests to themselves. The bible, and the history of Israel that it contains, is refreshingly honest in its history of battles won and lost. It does not cover up Israel's mistakes or captivities. God's word is truth. History's word is questionable. It is obvious that the writers of world history knew of these ancient travellers but neglected to tell the story of history from a neutral standpoint. Reality to each of us is what we are taught. Truth is what is absolute, beyond the perception of men and their "reality". History has some explaining to do.


This is a witness of our faith as in Joshua 24:27 :

And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.



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From:  Chris Hardaker <hardaker@c...>
Date:  Thu Apr 29, 1999  10:05 am
Subject:  [epigraphy] Re: The First Americans?

Doug, et al,

Needed to add my two cents, maybe even get back some change.
It was said that the Newsweek article was not terribly impressive. First of all, what has Newsweek ever done that has ever been “terribly impressive.” On the other hand, I would agree with that assessment as well if I were in the Clovis mafia and was seeing my entire New World early man scenario going down the toilet. As grads we are taught to laugh at, ridicule, scoff at those who would dare to violate American archaeology’s taboos. We are taught to be sanctimonious in the face of such idiocy; if the slightest credence is given to those idiots (such as you godless diffusionist or hunters of pre-Clovis assemblages), we don’t get those fancy letters after our names. Period.

There is one terribly important thing that should be realized about the Newsweek “early man”controversy in order not to alienate others that may be on the fence re: precolumbian transoc. contact.
You need to respect chronology.

1) For the past several archaeological generations two taboos have are set forth in virtually every anthro grad dept.
(Best spoken in a virulent German accent.)
a) There is no Transoceanic contact before Columbus/Vikings.
b) Clovis was first.

2) The Europeans spoken of in the Newsweek article are Solutreans (ca. 25-15k B.C.). So don’t go “nyeh nyehnyeh nyeh nyehing” the authorities using the Newsweek article to boost your cause. These guys are older than the Hebrew Adam and Eve, way older, pre-Wisconsin Glaciation/ Sangamon Interglacial older.  At present, the Solutrean lithic traditions are not only the best analog to our own Pleistocene Clovis traditions, they are also the closest, being just across the “pond.” Nothing remotely similar to these exquisite lithic traditions was found in East Asia.

3) The significant thing about this in regard to the established taboos is that the hypothesis of Solutrean boats pretty much threatens to bury these dogs in a single grave. What it does is open up the entire question of ancient (really ancient) transoceanic capabilities. The idea that absolutely no boat ever violated the New World’s virgin shores till Columbus (and/or Viking vacations) was critical to the scenario. The idea that everyone came through the vaginal canal of the Bering Straits (Beringia) is thus also laid to rest. And if some came this way, the idea that they had to travel between two glaciers to move south is also dying the good death; instead boats are now being slowly envisioned as the means to move down the west coast, a coastline that extended out another twenty miles or so from today’s.

But to use Solutreans as the cultural base that explains whatever strange scripts are found in the New World is a strain that even Von Danikan would have problems with.

Hope you all get a chance to read this article in order to better appreciate its chronological implications.

For a broad theory regarding what it is that all of you, all of us “normal” archaeologists, and prehistorians everywhere are currently involved in, perhaps get hold of Kuhn’s book on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Regardless of the criticism of the Newsweek article, and the attempt by some to kill (discredit) the messenger, it is not a bunch of crazies making this up, but folks who have been around for awhile in established halls of archaeological research.

Chris Hardaker

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From: "scott michaels" <>

Sent: Friday, September 20, 2002 2:19 AM

Subject: Re: [christianidentity] Is Oldest Inscription Of Ten Commandments In New Mexico?

> John,
>      Yes, the Los Lunas site is indeed authentic.
> During an archaeological expedition last September and
> October, I visited many interesting mound, rune and
> inscription sites across the U.S. as is my custom in
> the fall, including Mystery Mountain or Hidden
> Mountain in the desert outside of Los Lunas, New
> Mexico. The site is unmarked and is not logged as an
> "official" archeological site by mainstream science
> and for good reason. They ignore the site because of
> its revolutionary implications.
>   I examined the several inscriptions and they are
> indeed PALEO-HEBREW! I know of an archeologist, a
> compatriot of Barry Fell's, who wrote an incredibly
> interesting monograph on the Mystery Mountain site and
> he too has varified the authenticity of the
> inscriptions. (I'm sort of an amateur archeologist in
> my spare time.)
>   Not only are the Ten Commandments inscribed on a
> protected, flat rock slab near the base of the
> mountain, but the paleo-hebrew Tetragrammaton is
> inscribed into a summit rock. That particular
> inscription is translated, "YHVH is our mighty one."
> Besides all the inscriptions on the mountain, there is
> evidence that shows that the mountain was actually
> used as a defensive position by anywhere from
> approximately 100 to possibly 800 Hebrews who may have
> been retreating from some kind of danger or attack. It
> looks as though they may have been pursued by hostile
> forces. The upper ridge of the mountain is ringed by
> basalt-lined two-man fox holes at strategic look-out
> points. I counted at least 30 of them. No doubt there
> are more. Besides this, there is a large footer type
> arrangement of rock approximately 200 by 300 feet
> which may have been used as an animal pen on a flat
> area near the top of the mountain. Dating for the site
> inscriptions was done by analyzing a zodiacal chart,
> complete with an eclipse, that was inscribed into one
> of the sides.
>   I spent a day at the site, documenting with plenty
> of photos. It was by the grace of God that I was
> actually able to find the site. The hotel at which I
> stayed provided my guide who turned out to be an
> archeology enthusiast as well! She was the
> receptionist at the desk and had been to the site many
> times! I had thought about writing a paper about that
> site and some papers on several others, posting them
> on the web. Hebrews were in America at least from 100
> BC to 100 AD and they left a good amount of evidence.
>   My suggestion is that documenting be done now before
> big-nosed Big Brother decides to destroy or close down
> the amazing site, like they've been doing with so many
> others. Oh, by the way, the stories about the 7 and 8
> foot tall human skeletons with double rows of teeth
> and in some cases 6 fingers and toes are true. I saw
> an incredible specimen in a Missouri, private
> property, museum. Maybe more on this later.
>                                                  Scott



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