It may surprise many people to learn that the oldest known Ten Commandments written in Hebrew on stone may not be in the Holy Land, but in New Mexico, America. The carving resides west of Los Lunas, New Mexico at the bottom of a place called Hidden Mountain. Named the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone, it is also known as “Mystery Stone”, “Phoenician Inscription Rock”, or “Mystery Rock”. It contains the text of the Ten Commandments written in ancient Paleo-Hebrew.
King Solomon was an affluent and powerful king whose monarchy was marked by many years of peace. He is considered “the wisest of all men” who ordered sea voyages around the world to satisfy his curiosity about all things near and far. In addition, it is possible that the Israelites had been sent to the Hidden Mountain to find raw materials for King Solomon’s vast building projects, which included the building of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea.
And Hiram sent his men–sailors who knew the sea–to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. 1 Kings 9: 26-27
Harvard scholar Robert Pfeiffer, an expert in Semitic languages, confirmed the Paleo-Hebrew script and translated the writings as the Ten Commandments which include, “I am the Lord, thy God, who brought you out of the land” and “Thou shalt have no other gods”.
George Moorehouse (1985), a professional geologist, indicates that the boulder is of the same basalt as the cap of the mesa. He estimates its weight at 80 to 100 tons, and says it has moved about 2/3 of the distance from the mesa top to the valley floor since it broke off. The inscription is tilted about 40 degrees clockwise from horizontal, indicating that the stone has settled or even moved from its position at the time it was inscribed. (The above photograph was taken with a tilted camera.)
In 1996, Prof. James D. Tabor of the Dept. of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, interviewed the late Professor Frank Hibben (1910-2002), a retired University of New Mexico archaeologist, “who is convinced that 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.” (Tabor 1997) At present, the inscription itself is badly chalked and scrubbed up. However, Moorehouse compares the surviving weathering on the inscription to that on a nearby modern graffito dating itself to 1930. He concludes that the Decalogue inscription is clearly many times older than this graffito, and that 500 to 2000 years would not be an unreasonable estimate of its age.
Because of the stone’s weight of over 80 tons, it was never moved to a museum or laboratory for study and safekeeping. Many visitors have cleaned the stone inscriptions over the years, likely destroying any possibility for scientific analysis of the inscriptions’ patina. Nevertheless, comparing it to a modern inscription nearby, geologist George E. Morehouse, a colleague of Barry Fell, estimated that the inscription could be between 500 and 2000 years old and explain its freshness and lack of patina as being due to frequent scrubbing to make it more visible.
In April 2006, the first line of the unprotected inscription was obliterated by vandals.
Visitors to the site are required to purchase a $25 Recreational Access Permit from the New Mexico State Land Office.