Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Kokopelli Dilemma. The Use, Abuse, and Care of Rock Art

"The wisdom of the ages is written in the stones
May we see with the eyes of stones"

John Trudell, Santee Sioux

Deterioration at rock image sites can be split into two categories. First there is the natural deterioration from the normal forces of nature that cause archaeological sites to breakdown. These include wind, dust, ice and water erosion, seasonal variations in temperature and sun exposure, plant overgrowth, animal activity, and so forth. The origins of the sites themselves can often be attributed to these actions. Commonly rock shelters and shallow caves (favored locations for many types of rock art) were formed by natural erosion and continue to alter under the impact of these forces.

The second category of deterioration is that caused by human actions, both deliberate and unintentional. It is arguably the most destructive form of decay, damaging sites very rapidly and aggressively. The spray paint, scratched graffiti and theft we so quickly associate with urban living finds its way all too commonly to rock art sites

It is now the common policy of land managing agencies not to give out the locations of rock art sites (other than those on developed and patrolled trails), in order to protect them from concentrated visitation and vandalism.

The visitor can no longer expect to be told where the "best sites" are, and we must accept this until such time as resources are available for the agencies to control access appropriately. We hope that general education and learning to respect the sites as sacred landscapes, as well as places of history and examples of human expression, will lead to behavior that will naturally prolong the intended life of these extraordinary places.


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