Prehistoric rock art “irreparably damaged” by vandals, officials say
Abstract geometric designs in Big Bend National Park in Texas that have survived for thousands of years have been “irreparably damaged” by vandals who inscribed names and dates in prehistoric designs, the National Park Service said.
The Park Service said on its website that ancient rock art was damaged on Dec. 26 in the Indian Head area of the park, which covers more than 800,000 acres in southwest Texas and spans 118 miles from the United States border with Mexico.
Since 2015, park archaeologists have documented more than 50 cases of vandalism, the Park Service said.
Damaging park resources is against federal law, and degrading rock art and ancient cultural sites violates the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, which seeks to protect archaeological resources and sites on Federal and Native American lands.
Tom Alex, an archaeologist who retired from the park in 2014 after working there for 32 years, said the damaged abstract designs were known as petroglyphs and were pecked into the rock panel.
“There are wavy lines, curvilinear lines, geometric patterns, scribbles and things that sort of meander across the surface of the rock,” Alex said on Saturday.
Mr. Alex said it was difficult to pinpoint the age of the art, but based on weathering, the petroglyphs were most likely made between 3,000 and 8,000 years ago. He said these types of designs represent some of the oldest rock art in North America. In more recent times, rock art included more depictions of people and animals.
Pecked abstract art is common in the Southwestern United States. It is not yet possible to determine which group of indigenous people were responsible for the designs at Big Bend, Mr. Alex said.
It was also not known who damaged the rock art, although the person (s) responsible left clues. Four names have been scribbled on the art: Adrian, Ariel, Isaac and Norma, according to photos shared by the Park Service. The year 2021 and the date “12-26-21” have also been engraved on the rock.
Tom VandenBerg, Big Bend’s head of interpretive and visitor services, told Texas Monthly the park had received “pretty solid potential leads” on who was responsible for the vandalism. Mr VandenBerg added that the park is avoiding providing maps and directions to the sculptures to avoid damaging the ancient site.
Big Bend superintendent Bob Krumenaker condemned the vandalism in an article posted on the park’s website. “Damaging the natural features and rock art is destroying the very beauty and history the American people want to protect in our parks,” he said.
Park staff attempted to repair the damage, but much of it was permanent, the post said.
Mr Alex said some of the scratches on the panel were superficial and could be cleaned so that they were less obvious, but others had penetrated the prehistoric designs. “Those scratches will be there forever,” he said.
Stewards of public lands have complained about an increase in vandalism and graffiti in recent years.
In December 2020, Zion National Park in Utah said that almost every day staff members find there “words and shapes carved, drawn, painted (with mud, dirt, pigments). , paint) or scratched on rocks ”.
In January 2019, several of the iconic thorny leaf Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California were damaged during a government shutdown.