Sit down and hang on because this is a roller coaster of a tale. It begins innocently enough. On September 13th, 1924 Charles E. Manier was out for a Sunday drive with his wife Bessie, daughter Ethel, and father J.E. Manier. As they tooled along Silverbell Road north of Tucson (coincidentally, not far from where we live) they espied an old limekiln in the hillside. Curious, they stopped to investigate. While snooping around Charles noticed a metal object sticking out of the hillside. Charles and his father set upon the caliche (a soil layer of calcium carbonate, similar to concrete, that occurs naturally here) and were rewarded with a lead cross, 18 inches long and weighing 64 pounds.
The Maniers took the cross home, cleaned it up, and found a Latin inscription that was shortly thereafter translated by Frank Fowler, a University of Arizona professor, as “Calalus, the unknown land.” While at the University the cross was handled by multiple professors in several departments.
Speculation about the object’s origin ran wild. Could there have been a Roman presence in southern Arizona? Was this evidence of a lost tribe of Israel? Could this be the great find that finally put sleepy Tucson on the world map? We may laugh at those ideas now, but keep in mind this was the era of astonishing discoveries; the richly fabulous tomb of Tutankhamen was uncovered just two years earlier.