top of page

The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone is a large 80-ton boulder on the side of Hidden Mountain, near Los Lunas, New Mexico that bears an inscription carved onto a flat panel on the side of the rock. The stone is also known as the Los Lunas Mystery Stone or Commandment Rock. The inscription is interpreted to be an abridged version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments in a form of Paleo-Hebrew. The tetragrammaton YHWH, or "Yahweh," is written four times throughout the inscription. The stone is controversial in that some claim the inscription is Pre- Columbian, and therefore proof of early Semitic contact with the Americas.

The official discovery of the inscription was in 1933, when professor Frank Hibben, an archaeologist from the University of New Mexico, was led to the stone by an unnamed Indian guide who claimed to have found it as a boy in the 1880s. Hibben claims that when he first examined the rock, it was covered in lichen and near indistinguishable from other rocks in the area. The 1880s date of discovery is important to those who believe that the stone was inscribed by a lost tribe of Israel. Dr. Hibbens claimed there was patina covering the inscription in the 1930’s. In 1948, William H. McCart an Albuquerque resident took an interest in the rock and sent photographs to Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer of the Semitic Museum at Harvard University. But in doing so, in order to get a better picture, he purposely scratched out the natural patina over the inscription thus effectively destroying the most valuable information and context on the stone.

In 1949, Dr. Pfeiffer made a first known translation of the strange writing. Being an authority on the Old Testament, he concluded that the inscription was a copy of the Ten Commandments. He thought that the inscription was written in the Phoenician, the Moabite, and the Greek languages. Indeed, some local native American Indians, as a result of his work, have been referring to this rock as the Phoenician Inscription Rock. Professor Pfeiffer never stated at that time whom he thought carved the message. Many locals have been calling this site the "Ten Commandments Rock" ever since. Further speculation involved the authorship of the rock inscription. Some even considered it to be an inscription from a member of one of the lost tribes of Israel.

However, Robert L. Pfeiffers translation has not remained unchallenged. Notably two translators rejected the idea that the rock inscription had something to do with the Ten Commandments. In 1964, Robert L. LaFollete wrote a translation which resulted in a travelers story carved on the rock using Phoenician as well as some Hebrew, Cyrillic and Etruscan letters. LaFollete translated this story in English as well as in the Navajo language. Dixie L. Perkins published another translation in 1979. This time under the assumption that the writer was of Greek origin and that he was using old-Greek and Phoenician letters. Perkins translation, too, challenges the Ten Commandment version, again resulting in another travelers story. (1) However, Mrs Perkins stated in her foreword to her translation that she only studied Latin and Greek, not however Hebrew. It remains clear that Dr. Pfeiffer's translation is the correct one and has been verified by other scholars.

The writings on the Los Lunas stone use a combination of Hebrew and Greek letters. Greek? That's interesting. The Book of Mormon says nothing about Greek. The Greeks didn't conquer Palestine until more than 200 years after Lehi and Mulek left Jerusalem. The language of the stone uses good Greek grammar, and makes Samaritan mistakes that would be natural grammatical mistakes for a person of Greek learning but unthinkable for a Hebrew. But what of the language? The particular combination of characters matches a Samaritan-Greek dialect that has been discovered in Alexandria. Does this indicate that the stone’s inscription is of Phoenician influence? No. The archaeological evidence in the area does not support this hypothesis.


















Epigraphical Comparisons


Another way to narrow down the problem of the age is to compare the Los Lunas inscription with other Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew inscription samples from the Mediterranean Middle East. The Gezer calendar, which dates to the 10th century BC, is the earliest known example of Paleo-Hebrew writing.

In general, if the Los Lunas inscription is old-Hebrew, it is no younger than 500 B.C.E. because after that old-Hebrew came to be gradually replaced by the square-Hebrew alphabet. The old-Hebrew and Phoenician characters used to be almost identical from 1100 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E. Thereafter, mainly the Phoenicians continued to use this old alphabet, until their Mediterranean colonies were destroyed by the Romans during the Punic wars of the 2nd century B.C.E.  As mentioned in the Epigraphy section, the closest matching Phoenician or paleo-Hebrew writing samples are those from the Eshmunazar Sarcophagus (4th century B.C.E.) or those of the Bar Rakab Inscription and the Nerab Stelae.

The Paleo-Hebrew script is practically identical to the Phoenician script which was well documented by the 1930’s. One argument against the stone's antiquity is its apparent use of modern Hebrew punctuation, though amateur epigrapher Barry Fell argued that the punctuation is consistent with antiquity. However, scholars have not agreed with Fell’s conclusion dismissing the inscription based on the numerous stylistic and grammatical errors that appear in the inscription.

What about Mormon Influence?

There is further speculation involving the authorship of the rock inscription. There are some that claim that the stone was carved by someone in the Mormon Battalion as they may have passed through that area. It is claimed that some of the members of the Mormon Battalion participated in the school of the prophets where ancient Semitic languages were studied. The stone could have been just the etchings of a bored solider, which would explain some of the typos and errors in the text. Others have expressed the thought that perhaps some Mormons may have carved this message in an attempt to support their views of an ancient pre-Columbian semitic history in North America. However, a simple research on Mormon Web sites reveals absolutely nothing about this rock inscription. It is not used by their church as a proof for the existence of ancient Nephites in America. For a certainty it is not written in so-called "reformed Egyptian" language. There are also dating overlaps between Los Lunas and Mormon Brigade whose concentration was on the Great Utah Basin and their early establishment in the area.

Finally, there is no connection with the Mystery Stone and the Mormon community for the simple reason that there is no evidence to a confession by the Mormons. The Mormon faith, nor any of the array of Christian denominations; especially, of early American age would omit such an opportunity for a profession of the Christian faith. In addition, no names of individuals mentioned in the Book of Mormon have every been found in ancient inscriptions including the Mystery Stone at Los Lunas.

Nevertheless, the Mormons examined the stone in the 1950's to see if it was theirs. They sent out the Archaeological Society of Brigham Young University from Provo, Utah. The Mormon team critically examined the stone and in 1954 published an article which concluded the inscription was quite recent because of the lack of patina in the letters. Consequently, they dismissed it altogether. I had one person email me who was interested in the Los Lunas Mystery Stone. He stated that he was Mormon & had been so all of his life. He had never heard of the stone within the Mormon community and was intrigued by those claiming that it was of Mormon influence. He personally visited the site & concluded that this indeed had nothing to do with the Mormons- independently verifying the 1950's expedition.  

There is no evidence that supports the existence of the Nephites in Mormon archaeology. FARMS, a scholarly group associated with BYU, has no scholarship dealing with the site and does not make any evidentiary use of it. The stone is simply not connected to Mormon influence.

"It can be stated definitely that there is no connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon. There is no correspondence whatever between archeological sites and cultures as revealed by scientific investigations and as recorded in the Book of Mormon, hence the book cannot be regarded as having any historical value from the standpoint of the aboriginal peoples of the New World." -F.H.H. Roberts, Jr, Smithsonian Institution, 1951

The first step in deciphering the Los Lunas Inscription is to identify the letters. The inscription itself was written in paleo-Hebrew or Phoenician letters, as can be seen from the following (to the right) character chart:

























Many modern scholars now seem to agree that the rock inscription is indeed an abridged version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. Among others, these include: Cline 1982 (2), Deal 1992 (3), Stonebreaker 1982 (4), Underwood 1982 (5), Cyrus Gordon 1995 (6), and Skupin 1989 (7). In 1996, Prof James D. Tabor of the Dept. of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, interviewed Professor Frank Hibben. Hibben is convinced that the inscription is ancient and thus authentic. He also stated in the interview that he first saw the text in 1933. (see Tabor 1996: An Ancient Hebrew Inscription in New Mexico: Fact or Fraud" (8), see also J.Huston McCulloch 1997: "The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone" (9) ).

Dr. Cyrus Gordon, a historian of ancient Near Eastern civilizations, has promoted the idea that such people's reached the New World for the past several decades. The historical and archaeological evidence is not unimpressive and has been well documented by Barry Fell in his major study entitled "America B.C." (10) The number of Phoenician and Greek letters found on the Los Lunas Stone is clear evidence this is not original writing from antiquity. It was clearly written by someone who had partial knowledge of the language but not command of the structure or syntax. Certainly, these scribal errors rule out authenticity of the script being firsthand from an original source.



















Is there a Crypto-Jewish Connection?

Given the long history of crypto-Judaism in Spain, it seems logical to consider the question whether there is a connection between the native New Mexicans and those of the 15th-16th century Iberia. In the 1490's, Spain & Portugal began the forced conversion of Jews which became increasingly violent. Approximately 100,000 Jews converted at the point of the sword. This resulted in about one-third of converts; but insincere converts at that. A significant portion of these so-called converts continued to practice the ancestral Jewish faith illegally & in secret. Another 100,000 refused & were killed, while another 100,000 escaped. (11) What started as a campaign for religious conformity evolved into the establishment of racial and ethnic discrimination. At the end of the 14th century began the expulsion of the Jews driving them into Germany, Russia and Central, South, & North America.

The timing of Columbus's expedition, which coincides with the expulsion of the Jews, begs the question whether Columbus himself was a Jew. What we do know is that at least one of these converts can be found among the crew of Columbus first voyage to the New World. His name was Luis de Torres and was specifically recruited because of his knowledge of Hebrew. (12)

While there is ample evidence beginning in the 1580's of increasing crypto-Jewish immigration into New Spain, there is little evidence of settlement into New Mexico under Luis de Carvajal and the Failed Colony of Gaspar Castano de Sosa in 1579-1591, Juan de Onate in 1595-1607, or by Diego de Vargas in 1692.  Later during periods of persecution by the Mexican Inquisition in 1591, crypto-Jews migrated to frontier areas of northern New Spain to look for safe haven elsewhere.  So the question remains. Were there any Jews living in New Mexico under Spanish rule? Rabbi Floyd S. Fierman, a dedicated investigator of Jewish history in the Southwest US, faced this question in 1960. He turned to France V. Scholes, a leading historian of colonial New Mexico. Fierman reported the Scholes's view that "there appears, in fact, to be very little positive evidence regarding Jews in 17th century New Mexico and Arizona." (13)  The only circumstantial evidence for the first Anglo-Jew in New Mexico seems to be a person named Paul Levi, presumably of French background, who lived in Spanish colonial Santa Fe as early as 1773.

There is abundant evidence however for the migration & settlement of German Jews in the 18th century; specifically between 1840-1860.  One estimated places 15,000 Jews in the US in 1840 but only about 16 of them on the census in New Mexico by 1850.  However, the census was probably incomplete & thus would not accurately reflect the correct number. By 1860, a figure of 43 were numbered. The census for Los Lunas was very small showing only 12-16 residents there including one Moses Sachs. A survey by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1877 estimated the total number of Jews in the US at 190,000 and assumed that the great majority came from Germany. (14) What is known currently is that German-Jewish immigrants made up the entire Jewish population of New Mexico in 1850. (15) Jews still only accounted for only two-tenths of one percent in 1860 with New Mexico ranked at the bottom of the population census. Clearly, Jews did not come to New Mexico in large numbers before the Civil War.

The main residence of the Jewish community centered around Santa Fe in 1860 with the census reflecting other areas such as Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Taos, & Los Lunas. One district in Santa Fe even became known as "Little Jerusalem".  The first clear indication that they had not abandon their belief systems & customs was in 1860. An article written in The American Israelite in 1881 recalled the first "Yom Kippur" held at Santa Fe at the home of Levi Spiegelberg in 1860. One family who migrated to New Mexico from Old Mexico in the late 1890's and with a clear memory of their Jewish traditions, closed their curtains every Shabbat & lit candles. This practice still continues today and was confirmed to me by a lady who grew up in a Jewish family in 1960’s Albuquerque. Eventually with its continued growth, the first bar mitzvah ceremony in New Mexico took place in Santa Fe in 1876 and the first synagogue was built in Las Vegas, NM in 1886- the Temple Montefiore. Therefore, immigrating Jews in New Mexico may have kept their Jewishness secret prior to 1860 as there is little evidence of public religious practice.



Many of dismissed the site simply as a hoax perpetrated by Hibben or Hibben’s student’s as a hoax. A hoax according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is to “to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous”.  This is not the case with the Mystery Stone. There is no evidence of a hoax from Hibben or his student’s in 1933 at such a remote and distant site. This is an erroneous conclusion based on logical fallacies.

My research included multiple trips not just to the site at Los Lunas but to the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and library in Albuquerque, interviewing staff archaeologist, and research at the library of Santa Fe, NM.  After a year of intensive historical research and study of the Mystery Stone, one central truth emerged. Is the Los Lunas Mystery Stone connected to the crypto-Jews of New Mexico? Using the principle of Ockman’s Razor, the answer is yes. Based on the preponderance of evidence along with the census records there is compelling evidence that the Los Lunas Mystery Stone (Decalogue Stone) was made by Crypto-Jews migrating out of Germany to the greater area of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, then migrating further south towards the village of Los Lunas sometime between 1840-1860. Hidden Mountain may have reminded them of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai and as such culturally depicted the Old Testament tetragrammaton (the name of God written as the four-letter theonym transliterated as YHWH or YHVH) on a smaller stone on its summit, and the decalogue; an abridged version of the Ten Commandments on the boulder in combined paleo-Hebrew/Greek text in remembrance of the Mosaic Law.











































  1. Dixie L. Perkins, “The Meaning of the New Mexico Mystery Stone”, Sun Publishing Company, Albuquerque 1979

  2. Donald Cline, “The Los Lunas Stone”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 10 (1982 part 10)

  3. David Allen Deal, “Discovery of Ancient America”, Kherem La Yah Press, Irvine CA, first published in 1984. 1999 3rd Edition available from David Deal (

  4. Jay Stonebreaker, “A Decipherment of the Los Lunas Decalogue Inscription”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 18 (1989)

  5. L. Lyle Underwood, “The Los Lunas Inscription”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 10 (1982, part 1)

  6. Cyrus Gordon, “Diffusion of Near East Culture in Antiquity and in Byzantine Times”, Orient 30-31, 1995

  7. Michael Skupin, “The Los Lunas Errata”, Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications 18 (1989)

  8. James D. Tabor, “An Ancient Hebrew Inscription in New Mexico: Fact or Fraud”, United Israel Bulletin Vol. 52, Summer 1997

  9. J.Huston McCulloch “The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone”, 1997,

  10. Fell, Barry; “Ancient Punctuation and the Los Lunas Text,” Epigraphic Society, Occasional Publications, 13:35, 1985.

  11. Hordes, Stanley, “To the End of the Earth”, 2005, Columbia University Press, New York. pg. 18

  12. Ibid. pg 25

  13. Tobias, Henry, “A History of the Jews in New Mexico”, 1990, University of New Mexico Press, Albuqueque. pg. 7

  14. Ibid. pgs. 27- 28

  15. Ibid. pg. 29



Recommended Reading

To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico

New Mexico's Crypto-Jews: Image and Memory





































Screen Shot 2022-09-04 at 8.56.38 AM.png
Decalogue Stone before it was vandalized
Zodiac Star Map
There is another stone higher up the mountain that has constellations carved on it.
These petroglyphs show many of the signs of the zodiac, with one particular image of a partial solar eclipse and the constellation Scorpio. Astronomers have found that this particular solar event would have taken place in 107 B.C.- an event around 2,000 years ago.
Translation of the Decalogue Stone by Stan Fox
Screen Shot 2022-09-04 at 10.52_edited.j
Screen Shot 2022-09-04 at 9.58.03 AM.png
Hebrew inscription on the summit 
“Jehovah our Mighty One”
bottom of page