American Unearthed: Lead Crosses of Tucson

This statue of Charlemagne and two Frankish body guards stands on the grounds of Notre Dame in Paris

This statue of Charlemagne and two Frankish body guards stands on the grounds of Notre Dame in Paris

Nothing gets my attention like things found in the desert. If you’ve read my bio, you know I spent my high school weekends driving around southern New Mexico looking for this kind of stuff.
At the start of the America Unearthed program on the lead crosses, my immediate sense was a hoax. The story unfolded, and while the objects themselves looked goofy and hoax-like, the location and condition of their discovery point toward authenticity. It seems that I’m not the only one having trouble with this; there are professionals who say the crosses are authentic, and others who say they aren’t.
Two lead crosses, inscribed in Latin, found near Tucson Arizona

Two lead crosses, inscribed in Latin, found near Tucson Arizona

Here is my list of pros and cons regarding the legitimacy of the crosses.
Factors supporting hoax:
1. The only landmark noted near the find was a deserted lime kiln. If the items were real, and if they were meant to carry an ancient people’s history to future generations, which is what the writing on the crosses purports to do, then I would expect them to be buried near a landmark or to be near a settlement of the people who produced them.
Even the Dead Sea Scrolls, which remained hidden in unmarked caves for about 2000 years, were found near the ruins of the ancient community of Qumran. Where is the ancient community associated with the Arizona Lead Crosses? To me, the absence of associated ruins, is the biggest hoax factor of the find.
2. The inscriptions on the crosses tell a story of Roman Jews who migrated to America to avoid religious persecution from Muslims. Some say these writing use common phrases that were used by Cicero and other Romans. I’m not sure how this is important. Is not Latin, Latin?
3. An old timer from the region recalled a young artist, Timotio Odohui, who liked to work with soft metals and who lived near the lime kiln. This may be the smoking gun. The artist’s family was said to have moved north from Mexican after the French 1860’s invasion of Mexico. I assume that Odohui would have been living near the kiln around 1880.
4. A dinosaur image is on one artifact. Forked tongue or not, this sure looks like a dinosaur, and it does not look like any desert lizard I have ever seen. This is just goofy and shouts of hoax, unless you think extraterrestrials might be involved.
Factors supporting authenticity:
1. Today we know that the Toltecs came to Tula (Southern Mexico) from the north around 900 AD. I doubt this was known in 1924 or 1880. The writing on the lead crosses says that their people were at constant war with the Toltecs, and were in danger of being destroyed around 900 AD. Apparently this impending doom was the motive for recording their history on the crosses.
2. Lead is expensive. It’s about 1/3 the value of copper. One of the crosses weighted 64 pounds. Currently lead sells for about a dollar a pound. Who would be willing to make and bury several hundred dollars of objects just for the hell of it, never making one dime from selling the things, nor even claiming notoriety for constructing the hoax? However lead does make sense if someone wants to leave a history for future people to read. It has longevity and it was available in a mine nearby.
3. The desert gets very little rain fall and it would take a long time for the mineralization build on the crosses to occur. Looking at the mineralized under a microscope, Wolter did not see any signs of faked mineralization.
It is highly unlikely that Timotio, or anyone else, would pour hundreds of gallons of water onto the ground in the middle of the Sonora Desert, just to fake the ageing of lead or to compact the soil around objects into caciche.
4. The objects were buried six or more feet deep. What hoaxer would dig 6 feet deep in hard caliche to bury fakes?
So these objects remain an enigma. Without an associated human settlement, they are difficult to declare authentic. Without a demonstration of how they were faked in situ, it is difficult to label them as frauds.
For more information read this article.
Now I have to digress and tell my story of a potentially ancient object found in the desert near where I lived.
When I was in high school, a neighbor boy showed several of us a heavily rusted (red and crumbling) stub of a blade that extended from a brass handle. He claimed to have found it in the desert. We laughed him off and accused him of burying his hunting knife, then digging it up months later in an attempt to fake us out.
Now thinking back, I have to ask, what kid would wreck his hunting knife to prank his friends? Also I know from experience that when one buries something in the desert, they would be very lucky to find it again—sand dunes move.
Fifty years later, I reassess the object he had to be either a dagger or the remains of a rusted sword from a Spanish conquistador. It could also have been a U.S or Mexican cavalry sword, but it was so deteriorated that I think it had to be older. I wish I had examined it more carefully before laughing him off.
Charles (the Hammer) Martel, defeated the Syrian Umayyad Caliphate at Tours

Charles (the Hammer) Martel, defeated the Syrian Umayyad Caliphate at Tours

Finally the lead crosses speak of leaving France in the 700’s to escape Muslim religious tyranny. Most people don’t realize that Islamic forces were invading France from Spain in the 700’s. Their advance was halted by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne, is called the Father of Europe.

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18 Responses to American Unearthed: Lead Crosses of Tucson

  1. Jane says:

    I’m inclined to think they are Southern French rather than Byzantine. There were many tribes in France which Charlemagne unified to fight the Muslims. Before this and the conquest it must have been a very difficult and chaotic time and is no surprise a group may have felt the need to flee. The crudeness and simplicity of the decoration seems similar to pilgrim badges, before heraldry had come into fashion. If the items were later there may have been heraldic symbols.

    • Blake Heitzman says:

      There are free or cheap books on Amazon kindle about Charles der Großer, Charlemagne to you. It was Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, who defeated the Muslim forces, interestingly the Umayyad, or Syrian Caliphate, near Poitiers in 732 AD. Charlemagne mostly spent his time uniting the other German tribes with his German tribe, called the Franks, achieving what is known as the First Reich, or first unification of the Germanic peoples. You know who created the Third Reich. Bismarck is credited with the Second.

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  3. Brandon says:

    The reason why the Latin phrases found being common to Cicero is that he spoke and wrote in Classical Latin, which is very different from Latin in say 600 and different from the Latin in 1300.
    The reason that metric, the use of Classical Latin on artifacts is, because if you grab a book on Latin language, it’s going to be full of Latin used 2000 years ago. So if you have an artifact supposedly dating from 3-400 or later that is written in Classical, it’s a good bet it’s a hoax.
    It would be like finding a diary attributed to Ronald Reagan but it was all in Elizabethan English.

    • admin says:

      It didn’t seem to be genuine to me with or without classic Latin.

      • Jane says:

        You can’t assume that the person or people who wrote on the crosses knew Latin whether they wrote the inscriptions in 1400 or 800 or 1880. These people may not have been very well educated . The person who wrote the inscriptions may have been the most educated of the bunch and may have been referring to what he was taught or what sources he had access to in the past. Best thing to do is find out what kind of person would know Classical Latin in 800 (or 1400) and what sources would be available at that time. It just appears to me with the crudeness of the writing whoever did the inscription was doing the best he could to commemorate the passing of 3 people and their dire situation. That is, assuming the large cross was meant as a grave marker.

  4. Scout Walter I like but has made a view mistakes about the led artifacts.the time line should be 1300’s they fled from the middle. East and was using the Jewish calender the AD was just an english thought.The church dome structure with the cross of marine is still standing in Constandanoble he was right about who they were.You cannot discount fact. OLD R.C. history is my pass time.

    • admin says:

      Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453. There is a very good book on it by Roger Crowley. It was the eastern capitol of the Roman Empire from Constantine the First through Constantine Eleven when the city fell. Hagia Sophia was the center of Christianity during that time. Anyway I’m unsure what you are trying to tell me. You are welcome to make yourself more clear.

      • david garcia says:

        Your right. Constantinople and the eastern roman empire is the only one that could’ve or possibly have done this due to its vast wealth and resources that not even Charlemagne nor the Carolingian franks couldn’t have done. And 700 to 1071 the Byzantines still held southern Italy, Sicily and Sardinia and they still spoke vulgar/medieval Latin. And I remember a roman terracotta head bust in Mexico that dates between 2nd to 4th century. Especially roman ships that of course of Galveston bay Texas and the bay of jars in Brazil. So did Romans went! Who knows. We weren’t there in the past. But it’ll be crazy if such did happened.

        • Jane says:

          I disagree with this. Southern France has Roman ruins all over it . Lyon was the Western seat of Roman power for centuries and at times was the seat of the empire. IMO artifacts such as these could have been created by a post Roman tribe of Christians. Also, on some of the artifacts the Latin words for Britain, Gaul and Israel are written. Although the writer wrote in Latin a number of diverse tribes must have been represented . Another interesting thing that indicates the time period of 775 is that there are no representations of saints or of Jesus. Between 700 and 900 all images of Christ , God or saints were destroyed or painted over.

  5. Steve says:

    Human settlement is not necessary. In the desert, there are flash floods, and the artifacts could have been moved many miles by one or more flash floods & buried where they ended up. Also, Scott Wolter has absolutely authenticated the lead artifacts, thru the calleachie they were buried in.

    • admin says:

      As a person who grew up in the Southwest, I can tell you that the flashfloods follow the arroyos. For a fact, there are settlements all over the Southwest, from Anasazi to Cochise-Mogollon to Fremont to the pit houses of their predecessors, all in good shape, not washed away by flashfloods. I’ve even found campfires of the early hunter-gathers with the stones still within a few feet of each other, along with chips from working stone implements and sometimes those implements, all associated with that campfire, not scattered for miles. In fact the dry climate tends to preserve straw sandals, wood and clay implements, all of which I have found in the open and in caves.
      Scott says that the caliche takes time to form, but he admits that he could not determine how long since it depends on the amount of water and the minerals present. Given that, it seems that the lead crosses likely were made by the young Mexican artist who lived there in refuge from the French when Maximilian was attempting to conquer Mexico in the 1860’s. I may not have the story totally right, and I’m not going to take the time to look it up, but I think that the crosses were found in the 1930’s, thereby giving them 70 years in the ground to develop the caliche. I can also say that one of my high school friends found a Mexican cavalry sword (based on my memories of it compared to pictures I have seen recently). This would be about the same age as the crosses, and the sword was very corroded. Again presence of moisture and minerals would be key to the caliche process, and those factors vary from place to place. So I still believe that a settlement, a camp, or some remnant there of should be associated with the items, and based on the moisture of the soil at that site, some time range needs to be established for the mineralization on the objects, if such an estimate is possible. If either happens, then I will become more inclined to side with you on this.

      • Jane says:

        They could have been buried by the Indians. Indians would have wanted to remove every trace of the people they had conquered and it was not uncommon for Indians to dismember conquered people so their spirits would not come back to haunt them.

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  8. Julaina says:

    Very interesting, Blake. Maybe the crosses were brought there from some place else.

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