Were big crosses/little crosses a common method of communication during the Age of Exploration?
I have read some sources, such as this, Robert and Roberts' book A History of New Mexico, and other similar sources that describe Mendoza's expedition into New Mexico. According to the sources, Mendoza hired Esteban, since he was familiar with the territory, having been part of the Narváez expedition. Esteban led a small group north, and communicated back of his discoveries using crosses. He sent back small crosses to indicate small discoveries, while he planned to send large crosses back to indicate a large discovery...which would lead Mendoza to send forward a larger expedition.
This system of communication seems to be very inefficient, from a number of standpoints, the least of which asking someone to build and lug around the heavy crosses...at the end of the story they send one back the size of a man...and it still didn't help them locate any treasure. If I understand it, little information is communicated and it seems so inefficient.
My prior research is having read dozens of other books about other expeditions, such as by Cortez, Coronado, Agustin Rodriguez, Gaspar Castano de Sosa, Fransciso Levya de Bonilla, Juan de Onate, etc. yet never having heard about crosses used as communication. But me having not heard of another case doesn't mean this wasn't widespread outside those histories I have studied.
Was this system isolated to this expedition or was that used in other expeditions or situations to communicate?