September 1997 Volume 19 Number 3

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

Petroglyphs (carved, pecked or abraded images) and pictographs (paintings on rock)--collectively referred to as rock art--can be found from coast to coast. Ranging in ages from many thousands of years to mere decades, its regional, cultural, and stylistic variations mirror the rich diversity of the indigenous peoples that have inhabited this part of the continent.

As there is no national register or other such catalog, an exact count of the number of known rock art sites in the USA does not exist. Recently, with the help of rock art researchers in Arizona, I calculated that there are approximately 2,500 known individual sites on publicly owned land in that state alone. It must be remembered that this does not account for sites on private land and the myriad of unknown sites. Remember too that a "site" is not defined as a single glyph. A site can vary in size and content from a single small image to an area including multiple panels, each panel being made up of hundreds of glyphs. Rock art images also range in size from tiny elements a few centimeters across to massive examples many meters in length (Fig. 1).

anthropomorphic figures above animals

A petroglyph panel close to a later homestead site in southeastern Colorado. The panel shows a group of animals above which is s line of stick-like anthropomorphic figures. Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, Department of the Army, Fort Carson, Colorado.

If Arizona boasts more than 2,500 sites, it is readily apparent that nationally rock art represents a truly huge cultural resource in extent and diversity.

Window shopping in almost any location in the Southwest will reveal the acceptance of rock art as a decorative motif and therefore a symbol of the area. It could be argued that the hunchbacked, mischievous looking "flute player" (often erroneously referred to as "Kokopelli") may have now surpassed the ubiquitous "howling coyote" motif at the top of the list of the ten most popular Southwest images (Keith, 1997: McCreedy & Malotki, 1994).

The way in which this design of a stooped, often potbellied figure has become so popular perfectly illustrates the ease with which we will adopt images that visually appeal to us, while at the same time ignoring their spiritual significance to their originating communities. In fact, as a character, the flute player is not always the cute, fun loving guy so readily displayed on t-shirts, switch plates, tote bags, night lights, wind chimes and endless items of personal jewelry. Among many other activities, he is associated with the seduction of young girls, and indeed some of the most potent and powerful versions of this image, when found in their original contexts on sites, display in full erected state just how powerfully male this character can be. But like strategically placed Victorian fig leaves and covered piano legs, you are only likely to find the emasculated version of him adorning contemporary Southwest kitsch.

This sort�of familiarity with rock images coincides with increasing demands on public land for recreational use and an apparent ignorance of the significance of sacred places. It is therefore no wonder that we have seen a similar increase in reported damage to rock art sites through both general wear and tear and - more alarmingly--deliberate vandalism and theft. Along with pottery and other artifacts, rock art has joined the lucrative and often illegal business of collecting and trading ancient artifacts, turning up as items for garden landscaping and occasionally as interior decoration for private homes.

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 (Fig. 2). 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.

quartzite outcrop
Fig. 2
Part of Jeffers Petroglyph Site, southwest Minnesota. Not all sites are caves or cliffs; this site consists of a gently sloping quartzite outcrop approximately 900 feet long and 180 feet at its widest point.

Thousands of petroglyphs are carved into the rock along its length, many covered by a thick layer of lichen, as seen here. This makes them difficult to see and may be causing damage to the glyphs.

A long term environmental monitoring project is planned for this site in order to better understand the impact of the local environment on the glyphs -- including the lichen.

Although the ongoing, natural alteration of sites can cause rock art to decay and be lost, therefore qualifying normal weathering as a threat to the "object", these natural actions may be seen by some Native American communities as normal and a necessary part of the life of a site. With that in mind, can we truly call this deterioration? Trying to lessen the impact of natural forces of deterioration is an uphill struggle, and as a species we have not done well in our attempts to control Mother Nature. We can sometimes slow down the rate of decay, but attempting to stop it is rarely successful and can often cause or exacerbate other problems. In light of what we know about the traditional use of sites and the concerns of Native Americans, we also have to ask: should we interfere?

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 (Fig. 3).

zero graffito
Fig. 3
This is an unusual combination of natural and man-made deterioration. Here, the scratched graffito "ZERO" has been highlighted by the preferential efflorescence of natural soluble salts in the scratches. Pictograph Cave State Historic Park, Montana.

With the efforts to control graffiti by legislation limiting the availability of spray paint, an increase in the use of permanent ink markers and Liquid Paper type correction fluids seems to have occurred at rock image sites. Gunshot damage is a common feature especially in more rural locations, presumably the result of using the glyphs for target practice (Fig. 4). This kind of deliberate and premeditated activity on the part of a few visitors spoils the sites for all of us and for future generations. It is worth bearing in mind that these problems are not unique to the USA. A recent article in Time magazine (Jaroff, 1997) gives an example of similar problems occurring to Bushmen rock art sites in Africa.

hand petroglyphs with gunshot
Fig. 4
The round spalls that disfigure these petroglyphs of hands are gunshot damage. Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico.

Unintentional damage to sites is also widespread. Rock art has a tactile appeal and people are drawn to touch it, perhaps to gain some kind of physical connection to the ancient past, or maybe simply out of curiosity--after all, the sense of touch is a primary method by which we continuously and instinctively explore our immediate environment. Most people see their visit to a site as an isolated act. They forget that thousands of people have visited the site before them and thousands will come after them. If each of those persons touches the images the result is excessive amounts of wear and tear. Over time the buildup of natural oils from skin and the additional residue of sunscreen or maybe the picnic just enjoyed along the trail, cause the staining and darkening of images, and their physical erosion.

The spiritual nature of rock art sites has also led to abuse. Although the religious significance of these places is well known and accepted, it seems that their sanctity often is not--or at best it is misunderstood. Petroglyph and pictograph sites have been freely adopted as places for the ritual practice of various non-Native American belief systems, often described as New Age religions. Such activity has involved the use of materials and practices that either bear little resemblance to any known Native American ceremonies or the selective adoption of a variety of indigenous religious customs. These amalgams of religious practices often involve spiritual elements of indigenous cultures from other regions of North America and even components from other countries.

For example, Plains Indian type medicine wheels and miniature European style dolmens have been found constructed within Southwest rock art sites. These activities have involved the introduction of stone and other materials from outside the site and the rearrangement of existing rocks. Both of these activities may alter the spiritual condition of the site for the Native Americans, and anarchaeologically they represent the gross introduction of foreign materials and the disturbance--if not destruction--of existing elements. Candle wax has been found dripped over images, and the use of fires within sites is also widespread. Evidence of the use of sites by satanic cults has also been recorded.

Legally, any of these practices causing physical alteration of a site located on public lands can be classed as vandalism, therefore open to prosecution. However, prosecuting in these cases is difficult as the culprits have to be all but caught in the act of altering the site. The very nature of these practices (calling for the use of natural and secluded places) makes such apprehension almost impossible. In some extreme situations, surveillance cameras and other remote detection equipment have been used in an effort to control unauthorized site access and vandalism.

From a Native American viewpoint, these activities represent yet another assault on the remaining integrity of their already battered cultures and religions. A possible analogy might be the appearance of a group of uninvited "New Agers" in a church, synagogue or temple where they proceeded to carry out ceremonies and rituals that might be described as "pagan".

My strangest personal experience with rock art involved the unauthorized use of a pictograph site in Arizona. While carrying out a condition assessment of the site, located in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona (arguably the center of current New Age activity), I found myself surrounded by a group of approximately a dozen people intently following the progress of a blindfolded man who was dressed in a theatrical bright green leprechaun outfit and speaking in an atrocious fake Irish accent. One of his followers led him along the length of the site, while he "channeled" some form of spirit from the images. In the gaps between panels of images, he seemed to babble or talk in tongues. Miraculously he appeared to know exactly where each image was located despite the blindfold, however I must have been at best a benign force on the site, as he walked past me, apparently totally unaware of my presence or that of my environmental monitoring equipment. Bringing up the rear of the troop was another follower self-consciously beating a hand drum, the head of which was painted with designs popularly associated with Native American arts and crafts.

Being British and having Irish connections, I found this performance to be at first unbelievable (I thought my Forest Service colleagues had set me up) and then insulting. If this upset me, heaven knows how Native Americans must feel.

I later found out from people in the Sedona area that this person regularly took groups to the site, charging them large sums of money for a couple of hours of spiritual experience. Commercial activities of this type are legal only under a use permit issued by the Forest Service. Issuing permits helps provide the Service with some control of the concentration and kind of activities that take place, and recently provisions have been made for collecting fees which can be used for conservation and general maintenance of sites.

Petroglyphs and pictographs have attracted our attention for centuries. In the USA the earliest published attempt to record rock art is probably that of Cotton Mather who in 1690 published an account and illustration of Dighton Rock, Massachusetts, in a tome entitled "Wonderful Works of God Commemorated". This continued fascination has led to many techniques aimed at documenting images that have actually caused extensive damage to rock art. Methods of recording, such as taking rubbings, plaster casts, latex peels, or wet paper impressions of petroglyphs, have led to staining, surface erosion and actual loss of images. In addition, we have found that the application of certain materials compromises the use of newly developed dating techniques on these sites.

Highlighting rock art in order to make it easier for visitors to see and to allow for "better" photographs to be taken, has been a widespread practice in the past. Outlining petroglyphs and pictographs with chalk, crayon, marine varnish, charcoal and paint, throwing water or other liquids on pictographs to enhance their colors, lighting fires immediately below panels to provide atmospheric light, have all taken their toll on sites (Fig. 5). If not being regularly reapplied to aid visitor interpretation, many of these materials have been left in place after use rather than cleaned up in the mistaken belief that the rain and other elements will remove them quickly.

marine varnish on petroglyphs
Fig. 5
The dark color that highlights these petroglyphs from the Jeffers Petroglyph Site, Minnesota, has been caused by the aging of marine varnish that was applied to the glyphs to make them easier for visitors to see. This practice was discontinued five years ago.

In the desert Southwest, chalk not only stays in place, but can actually mineralize in a very short time to become hard and virtually impossible to remove safely. Likewise aged paints and crayons become insoluble, leaving an almost permanent record of the well intentioned documentation effort. All of these methods are now considered to be inappropriate techniques for recording rock images, as is the practice of invasive enhancement of images to make public viewing easier. Indeed, as with unauthorized site use, under the terms of much of the legislation that protects these resources on public land, the use of these methods and materials without permission of the managing agency can be prosecuted as acts of vandalism.

These activities, intentional or otherwise, show a total lack of understanding and respect for the cultures that created the images, and the significance of sites as spiritual and religious places. Although Native American belief systems are as diverse as the individual cultures represented within the indigenous peoples of the USA, there are some traits common to most.

Perhaps the one of most relevance to rock art sites is the concept that everything in this world has life within it.

Rocks are not dead, inanimate, spiritless masses of chemical compounds. They are alive and have power. To begin to understand this you do not have to study ethnography, anthropology, or follow a course in comparative religion. Just take the time to sit silently at a site and watch the never ending activity that goes on there; the animals and insects living in and around the rock, the wind and light changing the sound and appearance of the place. Revisiting a site at different times of the year will reveal how the seasons radically change the appearance and environment, the life within the site.

Better yet, if you are fortunate enough to spend time at a site with a Native American elder, allow your mind to open, and refrain from asking the kinds of material based questions conservators are trained to ask, you will have the best chance to start to understand these places from the point of view of the creators of the sites and their living descendants. Then it is easier to understand why it is so important to consider the traditional beliefs associated with a site when working there.

Legislation exists to protect archaeological sites, areas recognized as sacred, and the rights of Native Americans to practice their religion. However, a problem exists in that this legislation has been written by a culture whose background is primarily Eurocentric. Yet these laws are being applied to places that originate from other cultures, cultures whose concepts and definitions of time, space and location are totally different.

For instance, the problems of appropriate facilitation of access are difficult and contentious. Who should be allowed to use sites and in what manner? This is of particular concern to Native Americans regarding the use of places that they hold as sacred. With a greater awareness of indigenous people's concerns and needs, the federal land managing agencies are making efforts to accommodate them, but the task is not easy.

This is demonstrated by the response to National Park Service actions to manage access to Devils Tower, Wyoming. The geological formation known as Devils Tower (the focus of Devils Tower National Monument) is a sacred place to Native Americans, but more familiar to most people as the landing place for the Mother Ship in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". It is a popular tourist destination attracting almost 500,000 visitors a year, most between Memorial Day and Labor Day (National Park Service, undated), and it is also a popular destination for recreational climbers.

In 1995 the Monument initiated a Climbing Management Plan, part of which stated the request "In respect for the reverence many Native Americans hold for Devils Tower as a sacred site, rock climbers will be asked to voluntarily refrain from climbing on Devils Tower during the culturally significant month of June." (National Park Service, 1995). This produced a storm of protest from the climbing community who felt that their First Amendment rights had been violated and inevitably law suits have ensued. This situation illustrates the general need for tolerance and understanding between the many groups vying for use of land that is (regardless of any opinions challenging the validity of the situation) now owned by the federal government who is trying to manage it for all members of our society.

So, what can we do as conservators to preserve and protect these sites? Working with rock art is not for all conservators. As with every object that conservators have the privilege of working with, each poses its own particular problems and challenges. With rock art, these demands tend to be large, immobile, exposed, and sometimes remote. Unlike more traditional artifacts found in collections, rock art sites cannot be moved indoors for convenient, comfortable treatment.

It was once common practice to gather rock art for museum collections, regularly explaining this activity as an attempt to protect the images from vandalism and theft. However, the fact that the collection process (often involving the use of dynamite) could itself be described as vandalism and theft was overlooked, as was the importance of the images as part of the larger entity represented by the whole site. Taking chosen rock art images from a site is like selectively removing the heads of saints from a Byzantine wall-mosaic and placing them on the walls of a gallery, leaving the original with visual and spiritual voids that cannot be truly repaired.

The collection of rock art for museums is no longer accepted as a normal practice. The only time when it is considered as necessary is when a site is threatened with destruction due to development, road building, reservoir construction, or similar activities. Even in these circumstances we have seen a trend towards saving the sites, rather than destroying them. A recent case in point is the halting of the construction of a major hydro-electric dam project in the C�a Valley of northeastern Portugal, after an international outcry regarding the pending loss of over a hundred Paleolithic petroglyphs representing some of the oldest examples of rock art in Europe. The area has now been turned into an archaeological national park.

Rock art conservation treatments have to be designed to be applied on-site, often in areas where access to vehicles is either impossible or restricted, meaning that all equipment and supplies must be carried to the site. Electricity and running water may only be available via the use of a portable generator and by backpacking in containers of water. Issues of health and safety, and the environmental suitability of treatments raise a large number of problems as sites do not come furnished with laboratory standard safety equipment, controllable ventilation, hazardous waste disposal systems, or a convenient hospital (Fig. 6).

field laboratory at Pictograph
Fig. 6
A field laboratory set up at Pictograph Cave State Historic Park, Montana, during conservation field work in 1996. This lab was the facility that supported our work; assessing various methods for the possible consolidation of a collapsing cave wall below a panel of pictographs; and the removal of mineral deposits forming over the paintings due to changes in the local hydrology.

You have to be prepared to work outdoors in all extremes of weather, at all times of the year, and in physically challenging locations (Fig. 7); to really understand the way water drains from a site you should be there watching it at the height of a storm and to figure out the impact of ice in a flooded cave you must visit it when it is frozen.

difficult working conditions
Fig. 7
Working in the confined spaces of the caves at Hueco Tanks State Historic Park, Texas. Besides cramped working locations, Hueco Tanks also provides challenging weather; in the summer it can be so hot that work can only take place in the early hours of the day or in the evenings. The sites are also very slippery as the rock floors, most of them sloping, have become polished to an ice-like finish by thousands of years of use and visitation.

Rock art sites are alive both literally and spiritually. They consist of not just the visible images themselves; the very landscape they are situated in is an integral part of the site--or "object". Indeed, ethnographic records and contemporary Native American accounts tell us that the images (which we tend to focus on literally and metaphorically) are not necessarily the most important feature of the place. The most significant part of the site may be an aspect of the site's environment or indeed something not visible or tangible, but it is there, and it is connected to the images, and therefore we must take it into consideration when working with the visible parts of a site. This goes to underline the importance and necessity of consulting and involving native peoples whenever working with rock art.

Classifying which speciality within conservation best meets the demands of conserving rock art is difficult. Aspects of stone, architecture, site, wall painting, and of course archaeological conservation are all relevant. In addition, due to the fact that the sites exist as integral parts of the natural world, rock art conservation involves working with many other specialists including geologists, hydrologists, biologists, structural engineers, botanists and archaeologists, to name a few. This can be both frustrating and greatly rewarding all at the same time.

Funding for the protection and on-going care of sites is always a constraint. Agencies such as the National Park Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management (the federal agencies that protect the majority of rock art sites located on public lands in this country) are facing shrinking budgets and cuts in human resources. Trying to manage several hundreds--possibly thousands--of sites, many separated from each other by miles of roadless terrain is a challenge. And this is especially so when a limited staff has multiple responsibilities--ranger, law enforcement officer, interpreter, cultural resource manager, natural resource manager and administrator. As a conservator coming into this, you have to be prepared to recognize the limits and realities of the situation. You have to be able to compromise and have the ingenuity to find workable solutions to problems that ordinarily would be straightforward in the "normal" world of a museum.

Along with the skills just mentioned and the attributes of patience, precision and attention to detail that all good conservators must cultivate, working with rock art sites also demands that you can cope with being away from home for extended periods of time and enjoy traveling.

On average I drive 25,000 to 30,000 miles a year--I fly the rest of the time. I have two homes; my house in Portland, Oregon, and my truck. It is a close call as to which I spend more time in each year. Last year it was the truck that was decorated for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this year I didn't bother planting my vegetable garden, much to the disappointment of my friends and neighbors who normally enjoy its produce on my behalf. Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out why I haven't been given honorary shares in Motel 6 yet.

Common conservation tasks at rock image sites include trying to remove or repair vandalism, studying and mitigating the impact of natural weathering action, working with land managers to improve the way in which people visit sites, for example by helping to plan the re-routing of trails, helping to draw up etiquette guides for visitors, or helping to provide interpretation of sites. It is not unusual for me to be driving around with a generator, air compressor, work lights, ladders, camping equipment, various conservation supplies and smaller tools, along with less robust equipment such as relative humidity and temperature data loggers, several cameras, and my laptop computer and modem--two pieces of equipment I cannot imagine trying to do my job without.

Rock art conservation--especially in North America--is relatively undeveloped. We need to put some effort into helping land managers and archaeologists understand the principles of good conservation and provide them with options for the treatment of sites. In a desperate attempt to do something about vandalism at a site, it is still common practice for land managers to use proprietary graffiti removal products designed for cleaning bus stops, park benches and the like. Industrial sandblasters, wire brushes used in combination with all manner of solvents, acids, and paint strippers have been employed, and Easy-Off oven cleaner has a long and favored history of service, especially in the Southwest.

As conservators we must try to improve this situation, while at the same time recognizing the practical and financial resource limitations under which these people work. For example, after four years of working with the staff at Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico, helping them come up with solutions to the graffiti problems at the Monument, I carried out a training session for selected members of the staff , instructing them in the use of a series of techniques (including the correct operation of a low pressure airbrasive system) that they could utilize to clean-up graffiti not directly associated with petroglyphs.

Prior to learning how to apply the treatments, the participants were instructed in the principles of conservation, standards of professional practice, and given instruction on the importance of understanding the material science of both the "artifact" and the graffiti (in this case the artifact is the petroglyphs and the basalt substrate into which they are carved--knowledge most of them possessed, but had not necessarily considered when trying to deal with graffiti). As a result of this training I am confident that the Monument staff, should they leave the Monument for posts elsewhere and be faced with a graffiti problem at their new location, will not be tempted to simply use the specific treatments provided for Petroglyph National Monument without consideration for the unique characteristics of the new location. All training was carried out with the understanding that these particular treatments are specific to the Monument and should not be adopted elsewhere without first consulting a conservator.

An additional understanding was that no treatment of graffiti directly in contact with petroglyphs would be undertaken by the staff under any circumstance. These areas are to only be treated by an experienced conservator. It was also understood that if this agreement was breached by the staff, I reserved the right to publicly disassociate myself with their actions. So far this arrangement has worked well, and graffiti is being taken care of in a timely and informed manner.

In October a small part of the WAAC annual meetings in Phoenix will focus on the issues of rock art conservation. To my knowledge, this is the first time a meeting held by a conservation organization in the United States has shown such interest in this topic. For many years the issues of conservation and preservation have been addressed only by the American Rock Art Research Association (ARARA) and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) both of whom have, for many years, held symposia dedicated to rock art studies.

ARARA was founded in 1974 on the principles of promoting education, research and conservation within rock art studies and by 1981 it had established an energetic Conservation and Preservation Committee, a group of members prepared to volunteer time to advocate and support efforts to protect sites. In its early years, committee and general ARARA members were actively treating rock art in the field--especially graffiti removal--in a desperate attempt to preserve a resource that they could see being rapidly destroyed. These practices no longer take place under the sanction of ARARA, instead the committee has returned to its avocational approach to conservation issues, although they remain frustrated by the amount and rate of damage and destruction that occurs. To date I am the only professional conservator who has served as a committee member, and I continue to do so.

ARARA held its first meeting dedicated to conservation issues in 1987 (Crotty, 1989), and in 1988 they published "Conservation Guidelines of the American Rock Art Research Association" (ARARA, 1988). The interest in conservation issues amongst the membership of ARARA is such that I have been able to organize sessions dedicated to this topic at the last four annual meetings.

The SAA annual meetings represent one of the largest gatherings of archaeologists and anthropologists in the country. Rock art papers have been a regular feature of these meetings for at least 15 years. In 1987 two sessions were dedicated to rock art studies, since 1993 there have been annual sessions devoted to the subject, and at the 1995 meetings a special interest group was formed within SAA dedicated to promoting the study and general awareness of rock art related issues including conservation. None of the SAA sessions have been dedicated to conservation, but have included papers addressing the topic.

Although it is encouraging to finally see a conservation association interested enough to highlight this subject as the WAAC meeting will do, it is sad that other organizations whose primary focus is not conservation have led the way in promoting the need for the appropriate treatment of this resource.

There is, not surprisingly, a need for both research into specific conservation problems posed by rock art and for the adaptation of existing treatments from other fields of conservation. Petroglyph National Monument has been a leader in efforts to research and support innovations in rock art conservation. I am currently working there with John Griswold, of Wharton & Griswold Associates, Santa Barbara, California, researching and field testing methods and materials for the reintegration of scratched graffiti. We hope this work will enable us to find a treatment that will not only be visually acceptable, financially feasible, and have low maintenance demands, but one that can endure the very exposed location of the Monument and the extremes of the local environment.

With approximately 17,000 known glyphs located on a 17 mile long escarpment, much of which shows varying concentrations of scratched graffiti and gunshot damage, the importance of finding a practical solution to this problem is obvious. Of course the results of this work will also be of use to many other sites facing these sadly common problems.

Training is also an issue. Currently there are people conserving rock art sites who have little or no training in what we consider to be professional conservation methods, materials, and ethics. This puts the sites at risk and does little to further our efforts as a profession to promote sound conservation practice.

Ultimately we should ask why conserve these images and sites, and for whom? Protection and preservation of these sites provide all of us with a resource from which we can learn about the history of this land, and about the communities that have lived here before us. Rock art represents a visual reminder of past activities and a connection to past and present spiritual beliefs. These efforts help some Native American communities reconnect or maintain their cultural connections, help reinforce traditional beliefs, and provide their children with a stronger sense of cultural identity. This is not conserving art for art's sake.

How can we help as visitors to rock art sites? We all need to learn to look with our eyes, not our hands. Vandalism to sites should be reported promptly to the relevant land management agency. Educating ourselves and others about the significance of petroglyphs and pictographs will help us all understand and respect this remarkable and often fragile example of cultural heritage. However, we also have to accept that we will never know the true meaning of these places, and that the traditional owners of the sites have the right to retain that knowledge and not share it if they so choose.

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.


ARARA, 1988. Conservation Guidelines of the American Rock Art Research Association. ARARA, c/o Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

Bahn, Paul G. 1995. "Paleolithic Engravings Endangered in C�a Valley, Portugal", in La Pintura, the newsletter of ARARA, Vol. 21, Number 3.

Champagne, Duane. 1994. Native America: Portrait of the Peoples. Visible Ink Press, Washington D.C.

Crotty, Helen K. 1989. Preserving Our Rock Art Heritage: Proceedings From the Symposium on Rock Art Conservation and Protection, 14th Annual ARARA Conference. ARARA Occasional Paper 1. ARARA, c/o Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

Gill, Sam D. & Sullivan, Irene F. 1992. Dictionary of Native American Mythology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England.

Jaroff, Leon. 1997. "Etched in Stone", in Time, June 2, 1997, Vol. 149, No. 22.

Keith, J. Leon. 1997. "Cuckoo for Kokopelli: figure draws fans, falsehoods like flies", Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff, Arizona. Friday, March 7, 1997, page A4.

McCreedy, Patricia & Malotki, Ekkehart. 1994. Tapamveni: The Rock Art Galleries of Petrified Forest and Beyond. Petrified Forest Museum Association, Petrified Forest, Arizona.

National Park Service. Undated. Devils Tower National Monument. General information page for Monument, available on the world wide web.

National Park Service, 1995. Final Climbing Management Plan / Finding of No Significance: Devils Tower National Monument, Crook County, Wyoming. U.S. Department of the Interior Park Service Rocky Mountain Region, Denver, Colorado.

Utter, Jack. 1993. American Indians: Answers to Today's Questions. National Woodlands Publishing Company, Lake Ann, Michigan.

Whitley, David S. & Loendorf, Lawrence L. eds. 1994. New Light on Old Art: Recent Advances in Hunter-Gatherer Rock Art Research. Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, Monograph 36. Los Angeles.


This article is an expanded version of a short piece due to appear in the December 1997 issue of "Archaeology and Public Education" (Vol. 7, No. 3, 1997)--the newsletter of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Public Education Committee. I would like to thank the Public Education Committee of SAA for permission to publish this developed version of the piece already written for them. Thanks are also due to various members of ARARA and the SAA for confirming the details of the history of the organizations, and to Dave Hatch for encouragement and some wicked but needed editing, most of which I accepted.


Based out of Portland, Oregon, J. Claire Dean is an archaeological conservator in private practice who specializes in the conservation of rock art. Besides being a member of WAAC she is a member of the Society for American Archaeology's rock art special interest group, and she serves on two committees of the American Rock Art Research Association (ARARA); as a member of the Conservation and Preservation Committee, and as the Oregon State Representative to their Education Committee. She is also on the Board of Directors of ARARA.

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