Find May Predate Oldest Carvings in N.M.

ALBUQUERQUE, June 22 (UPI) — A New Mexico man says he discovered inscriptions in the mountains he believes date back to the 1580s.

Mike Smith, an Albuquerque historian and author, said the inscriptions found in the rocky desert area of the Sandia Mountains show Christian crosses and letters he believes could have been the work of an obscure Spanish expedition, the Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday.

Smith said he was scouring the area east of the Rio Grande for inscriptions made by early-1900s travelers.

“Instead, these leaped out at me,” he said.

Rick Hendricks, New Mexico’s state historian, said he intends to examine the inscriptions Friday.

“If they turn out to be what (Smith) says they are, it would be a really exciting find, to be sure,” Hendricks said.

Smith said the inscriptions’ style and their weathering could mean the carvings were made by Spaniards who came to New Mexico 40 years after Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored the area in the 1540s.

Intricate lettering that appears to spell the name “Santa Maria” causes Smith to believe the inscription was written by Juan de Santa Maria, one of three Franciscan priests who were on a 1581-1582 expedition to the region.

If Smith is correct, his discovery would predate New Mexico’s oldest known Spanish inscriptions, which were carved about1605 during an expedition by Juan de OƱate.

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