Inscriptions may date back to 1580s

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Letters and Christian crosses etched in stone were found near the Sandia Mountains

By Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — Newly found inscriptions depicting Christian crosses and letters etched in stone have been discovered north of the Sandia Mountains — possibly the work of a Spanish expedition that visited New Mexico in the 1580s.

Albuquerque historian and author Mike Smith said he found the etchings this month while exploring a rocky, desert area east of the Rio Grande.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on the findings in a copyright story published Tuesday.

New Mexico’s state historian, Rick Hendricks, plans to examine the inscriptions Friday.

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

Smith said the style of the inscriptions, as well as the weathering they show, suggest the carvings were made by Spaniards who visited New Mexico four decades after Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored the region in the 1540s.

Smith found florid lettering that appears to spell the name “Santa Maria.” Smith said he believes the inscription was made by Juan de Santa Maria, who was one of three Franciscan priests who

participated in a small expedition to New Mexico in 1581 and 1582.

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