The Elephant Slabs of Flora Vista: Enigmatic Artifacts with Ancient African Origins


In Did West Africans live in the Four Corners Region of the United States from 12th Century ?, published in Ancient Origins, I discussed the Mande inscriptions found in the Four Corners region of the Southwest United States. It illustrated that the Mande people (ethnic group of West Africa) belonging to the expedition of Voyager Mansa Abubakari left many inscriptions throughout the Southwest and generally, the Americas.

The ‘Voyager King’ Mansa Abubakari II – Africa’s Greatest Explorer (

William James Veall  in Sea-Farers from the Levant: Do Ancient Inscriptions Rewrite History of the Americas? – Part 2 , also published in Ancient Origins provides a detailed discussion of the Mande inscriptions found in South America left by Abubakari and his followers along the coast.

The Four Corners region is the red circle in this map. The four corners states – Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, USA—are highlighted in orange.

The Four Corners region is the red circle in this map. The four corners states – Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, USA—are highlighted in orange. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

These inscriptions are not the only Mande inscriptions found in Four Corners. Another interesting inscription found is the Elephant Slabs.

The Enigmatic Elephant Slabs

E. B. Sayles offers a detailed discussion of the Elephant Slabs in his book Fantasies of Gold . Sayles was on the staff of the Arizona State Museum; he first wrote about the slabs in an official pamphlet called ‘Elephant Slabs’.

Sayles discussed many artifacts discovered in Four Corners, like the elephant-decorated Montezuma Valley Jar, that was found by Frederick Bennett Wright in 1885. Wright claimed the jar was found in ruins situated in the Montezuma Valley “within sight” of the place where the Elephant Slabs were found.

The Elephant Slabs were discovered in 1910 in Native American ruins, by a boy at Flora Vista, New Mexico. Edwin Sayles of the Arizona State Museum made it clear that the Elephant Slabs arrived at the museum in 1950.

Montezuma Valley Jar

There are two Elephant Slabs. The smallest slab is six inches wide and six inches long (15 cm by 15 cm), we will call this artifact Elephant Slab 2. The largest slab with eight lines of inscriptions is six inches wide and fourteen inches long (15 cm by 35.5 cm).

Elephant Slabs

Elephants in America?

Brad Steiger in his book Mysteries in Time and Space , discussed the Flora Vista Elephant Slabs that depicted elephants along with inscriptions.

There is some evidence that elephants may have been in the American Southwest in historic times.

Thomas Jefferson, a founding father of vertebrate paleontology, in 1731 or 1782, wrote: “A  Mr. Stanley, taken prisoner by the Indians near the mouth of the Tanissee [Tennessee River], relates that after being transferred through several tribes, from one to another, he was at length carried over the mountains west of the Missouri [Rocky Mountains?] to a river ‘”which runs … ,westwardly; that these bones abounded there, and that the natives described to him the animal to which they belonged as still existing in the northern parts of their country  from which description he judged it to be an elephant. Bones of the same kind have been lately found, some feet below the surface of the earth, in salines opened on the North Holston, a branch of the Tanisee about the latitude of 361/2° ”.

The discovery of elephant bones in Tennessee and out West were not the only evidences of elephants in the United States. For example, many elephantine rock art motifs have been found from Utah to Florida.

Bednarik and Tuohy believe that the Yellow Rock, Nevada elephant images were made in the 1840’s. Layton on the other hand, believes the creator(s) of the wounded elephant petroglyphs are “authentic” and made by an actual witness of the event.

The Native American tradition recorded by Jefferson, and the Montezuma Valley jar make it clear that the Elephant Slabs are authentic artifacts and not forgeries. The Mande inscriptions on the Elephant Slabs illustrate that when the Mande lived at Flora Vista there were elephants in the surrounding region. The slab indicates that it was the Malians who took the elephants with them to Flora Vista.

Ancient Peoples of America

Brad Steiger has suggested that the inscriptions were written in Phoenician, but the signs do not resemble this script. Dr. David Imhotep, claims the Elephant Slabs were written by Africans.

When the Spanish arrived in Arizona they reportedly found Black communities. In 1775, Father Francisco Garces discovered Black men, clearly African, living in a community beside the Zuni Indians in New Mexico.

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