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Professors investigate South Mountain mystery

August 23, 2010

Recently, an ASU faculty tandem put their heads together for the popular PBS series "History Detectives" to determine if an inscription on a rock wall in South Mountain Park in Phoenix is the real deal. 

Working with Ronald Dorn, professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Eduardo Pagán, co-host of "History Detectives" and ASU Bob Stump Endowed Professor of History, investigated the rock carving, which was discovered in the 1920s and reads: “Fr Marcos de Niza corona todo el nuebo Mexico a su costa 1539.” Roughly translated it means, “Fray Marcos de Niza crowned all of New Mexico at his expense, 1539.” If this date is accurate, then de Niza was the first European in the Phoenix area.

Pagán and Dorn worked with local experts and in ASU labs using carbon-dating equipment to research the authenticity of the inscription in an episode that aired Aug. 16 on Eight, Arizona PBS. What Dorn’s forensic tests were able to reveal ultimately confirmed the identity of Phoenix’s early European settlers.

Watch the episode.