Williams, AZ USA: Ariz. Officials Work To Protect Ancient Art

Ariz. Officials Work To Protect Ancient Art

by (AP) WILLIAMS, Ariz.
Published: Sun, October 03, 2010 – 12:19 pm CST Last Updated: Sun, October 03, 2010 – 1:35 pm CST
Investigators Have Yet To Identify Any Suspects In The Case Of A 1,000-year-old Rock Art Panel That Was Damaged In Northern Arizona Over The Summer, But Officials Say What Happened…

Williams, Arizona – Investigators have yet to identify any suspects in the case of a 1,000-year-old rock art panel that was damaged in northern Arizona over the summer, but officials say what happened on the Kaibab National Forest is a reminder of the ongoing assault on archaeological sites in Arizona and across the Southwest.

A hiker reported the damage in August at Keyhole Sink, named for a keyhole-shaped lava flow. The word “ACE” was written in silver paint over the rock art, known as petroglyphs.

Kaibab officials aren’t sure exactly what the letters mean, other than a potentially expensive restoration job that might not work.

“It’s beyond words,” Kaibab archaeologist Neil Weintraub said of the damage. “It feels like an attack on this site. What has it done except give people pleasure for years?”

Officials say sites around the Southwest are being vandalized from graffiti and looting to littering and garbage-dumping. Sites are defaced with paint, bullet marks, paintball stains and messages scratched into rocks. Professional thieves remove pottery, hack out chunks of ancient art-covered rock and dislodge anything they can carry away.

The sites are vulnerable because they’re not behind locked doors, and monitoring is intermittent at many of the locations.

There aren’t enough people to check them frequently, there are simply too many sites, and often, they’re hard to reach.

“We can’t monitor them all, and neither can the land managers,” said Nicole Armstrong-Best, interim coordinator for Arizona’s Site Stewards program, which oversees a group of volunteers who monitor local, state and federal sites all over the state.

There are about 800 volunteers who monitor the 3,000 most significant or most affected sites the program tracks.

More than 130 vandalism reports have been filed by the stewards since October 2009, when a computerized reporting system was put in place. Reported incidents include petroglyph thefts, paint damage, graffiti and dumping of debris. In a few cases, even shrines and cairns have been built on the sites.

Mike Johnson, deputy preservation officer for the Bureau of Land Management’s Arizona office in Phoenix, said urban growth in the West means more people looking to crowd into diminishing open space, putting more pressure on archaeological sites. At the same time, he said technology like GPS helps people find sites, and Internet marketplaces permit thieves to easily market what they’ve stolen.

Johnson said the BLM is working to increase steward visits and patrols by uniformed officers at sensitive sites, and to increased cooperation with American Indian tribes, for whom these sites are sacred reminders of their ancestors.

At Keyhole Sink, officials say they may have to consider installing cameras and motion detectors to protect the site.

Until the paint is removed, Weintraub said, people who come there from around the world will be disappointed.

“We’ve lost the value of people being able to come there, see the stuff, sometimes sit there alone and imagine how it was for the ancient people who lived there,” he said.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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