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Volume 30
Number 2
Fall 2013
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Photo detail of the Monte Video inscription  
Feature
The “Monte Video” inscription at Grand Canyon National Park: Why it’s likely from the Bass tourist era
By Jonathan Upchurch*
Published: 15 Jan 2014 (online)  •  30 Jan 2014 (in print)
Pages
 
Abstract
  Introduction
Tourism operations
A new hypothesis
Opinion of Coronado expedition experts
Conclusion
References cited
About the author
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Introduction

“Sherlock Holmes would have loved this!” Grand Canyon National Park anthropologist Robert C. Euler was reading from a letter dated 4 February 1982 written by his professional colleague, B. L. Fontana. Euler had shared information with Fontana about a mysterious sandstone inscription in the canyon that reads “MONTE VIDEO.” After supplementing his own investigation with the additional information from colleagues like Fontana, Euler concluded that MONTE VIDEO was late 19th century or early 20th century in origin. Other key findings of Euler’s (1980) site survey:

  • The inscription is located near a canyon tourist destination operated by William Wallace Bass from 1885 to 1923.
  • “The incised lettering … appears to be late 19th century in style.”
  • “In a crack in the sandstone adjoining the inscription was a rusted corned beef can” with a “soldered bottom … manufactured between 1875 and 1920.”
  • Language experts concluded that “monte video” is Latin for “I see the mountains from this place.”1
The MONTE VIDEO inscription as photographed in November 1975

Courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection

Figure 1. The MONTE VIDEO inscription as photographed in November 1975, by Gene Wendt.

Prior to Euler’s site investigation, the only formal documentation of an inscription at the MONTE VIDEO site was a 1975 photograph by Gene Wendt (fig. 1, above). In the 38 years since then, it is likely that only a small handful of Grand Canyon backcountry users have been to the inscription’s remote location. During the past few years the inscription has received more exposure as its origin has become a topic of scholarly debate. Geologist Ray Kenny proposed, in an article published in Park Science in 2010, the hypothesis that the inscription was made in 1540 by Spanish explorers (Kenny 2010). This article presents the case that the inscription was likely created between 1885 and 1918 and also critiques the Spanish-origin hypothesis.

*Copyright 2013 Jonathan Upchurch

1 Personal correspondence of Paul H. Ezell; Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University, forwarding the opinion of Sister Catherine Louise La Coste, a Latin scholar at the Diocese of San Diego, as to the language and translation of the inscription; 28 January 1982. Ezell also provided his opinion that “video” is Latin and means “I see.”

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This page updated:  14 January 2014
URL: http://www.nature.nps.gov/ParkScience/index.cfm?ArticleID=635&Page=1



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