Big Bend National Park

Ancient Petroglyph Rock Art Vandalized At Big Bend National Park

Dan
Dan
January 14, 2022

There's something particularly despicable about defacing something that can't be replaced.

Authorities are looking for the person or people who vandalized ancient petroglyphs — items whose historical value is priceless — at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Disappointingly, it's part of a larger trend.

What's your take on graffiti?

Flickr | padraic collins

Street art is a common sight in urban settings, and often brings life to a streetscape that would otherwise be dull and drab. Sometimes it's even commissioned as an art piece.

Needless to say, vandalizing a national park is another matter entirely.

Vandalism is on the rise at Big Bend National PArk.

The national park, located in the rugged Chihuahuan Desert, just north of the Rio Grande and Mexico, is an area of great significance. In addition to the many species of animals that call it home, it also has a long history of human habitation, with some archaeological sites dating back close to 10,000 years.

The park has numerous petroglyphs.

Wikimedia Commons | JRick1

Petroglyphs — ancient writings in rocks that can still be seen today — are a glimpse into our distant past.

They're a form of prehistoric art dating back thousands of years. The park was home to various Native American groups, including the Chisos, Mescaleros and Comanche.

These petroglyphs have been defaced.

Sadly, as this picture makes clear, recent visitors to the park have decided to scrawl over these ancient petroglyphs with their own names and the date. The scrawling doesn't even have any artistic value. It's just plain vandalism.

Authorities are looking for the culprits.

According to a National Park Service (NPS) press release, the rocks were "irreparably damaged when vandals chose to boldly scratch their names and the date across the prehistoric art."

Judging by the names and the date, this was done by people named Isaac, Ariel, Norma and Adrian back on December 26th.

What punishment do they face?

Wikimedia Commons | JRick1

Graffiti is generally illegal, but this vandalism comes with additional potential charges, as damaging national park resources is a federal crime. "Rock art and ancient cultural sites are also protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA)," the NPS notes in their release.

It's a sad state of affairs.

"Damaging natural features and rock art destroys the very beauty and history that the American people want to protect in our parks, " said Big Bend National Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker.

"With each instance of vandalism, part of our Nation's heritage is lost forever."

It's part of an unfortunate trend.

Wikimedia Commons | U.S. National Park Service

Seeing ancient art vandalized by a few knuckleheads could be brushed off as an isolated incident, but unfortunately, this isn't the case. The NPS notes that park archaeologists have found over fifty instances of vandalism to sites at Big Bend since 2015.

What do you do if you find vandalism in a national park?

Wikimedia Commons | Steevven1

Needless to say, it should be reported to park authorities. But another important thing to note is that you shouldn't attempt to clean it yourself, as staffers have better methods.

Authorities are still looking for the culprits who carried out the vandalism at Big Bend.