June 2014

The Mystery Stone


Karin Stangl


It is a mystery in the desert hills near Los Lunas, New Mexico. It has puzzled experts for more than 50 years. It has been referred to by many different names, including Ten Commandments Rock, Mystery Rock, and the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone. But it is most commonly known as the Mystery Stone. It is located on state trust land.

Each year about 50 applications are submitted for recreational access permits to the State Land Office by school groups, hikers or the general public to visit the Mystery Stone. It is the most visited site on state trust lands.

The stone is located at the base of Hidden Mountain, about 16 miles west of Los Lunas. It is a boulder weighing an estimated 80 to 100 tons and is about eight meters in length. Nine rows of 216 characters were chiseled at a 150-degree angle into the north face of the stone. The characters resemble ancient Phoenician script. Like the rest of Hidden Mountain, the boulder is volcanic basalt.

The site was first documented in 1938 when visited by anthropology professor Frank Hibben, from the University of New Mexico. Other reported visits prior to that are unconfirmed.

There are several Anasazi petroglyphs in a nearby arroyo, which is the main route of access to the large Anasazi village on top of Hidden Mountain. About 10 meters to the southwest of Mystery Stone is a petroglyph that appears to be a mountain lion or other type of large cat. Other forms of more recent graffiti can be found on nearby boulders. Three meters to the north of Mystery Stone, on the top of a flat boulder buried in the bottom of the arroyo, are the names “HOBE” and “EVA,” and the date is “3-19-30.”

Numerous interpretations and translations of Mystery Stone have been proposed over the years. Professor Robert Pfeiffer, of the Harvard Semitic Museum, believes it to be an ancient version of the Ten Commandments. Dixie L. Perkins, author of The Meaning of the New Mexico Mystery Stone, translated it as a 2,500-year-old tale left by the Greek explorer Zakyneros. Other interpretations define it as being the location of a lost treasure buried by ancestors of the pueblo of Acoma, a message left by one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, a prank carried out by college students in the 1930s, or perhaps even a message of extraterrestrial origins. Whatever the case may be, the circumstances surrounding this inscription are mysterious, giving the Mystery Stone its well-deserved name.

For more information or to purchase a $25 recreational access permit, which allows visitors access to all state trust lands for a period of one year, call 505.827.5724.


Karin Stangl is with the New Mexico State Land Office.




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