Native American petroglyphs vandalized and stolen from federal lands

Petroglyph thefts near Bishop stun federal authorities, Paiutes –

Ancient hunters and gatherers etched vivid petroglyphs on cliffs in the Eastern Sierra that withstood winds, flash floods and earthquakes for more than 3,500 years. Thieves needed only a few hours to cut them down and haul them away.

Federal authorities say at least four petroglyphs have been taken from the site. A fifth was defaced with deep saw cuts on three sides. A sixth had been removed and broken during the theft, then propped against a boulder near a visitor parking lot.

Dozens of other petroglyphs were scarred by hammer strikes and saw cuts.

The theft required extraordinary effort: Ladders, electric generators and power saws had to be driven into the remote and arid high desert site near Bishop. Thieves gouged holes in the rock and sheared off slabs that were up to 15 feet above ground and 2 feet high and wide.

Visitors discovered the theft and reported it to the BLM on Oct. 31. BLM field office manager Bernadette Lovato delivered the bad news to Paiute-Shoshone tribal leaders in Bishop.

Really awful. The pieces in fact are not of great value on the market but are to the Native tribespeople who consider that land sacred. It’s unclear why such an effort was made to take them. The theft has raised a question of how to protect such archaeological resources. In the case of fossils, it’s typical to not disclose the location of the find until the pieces are removed for safekeeping. Should the petroglyphs be removed? Even more so than fossils, they represent a connection to that place. The authorities can’t secure all the locations, one has to rely on respect for such irreplaceable artifacts. Sadly, not everyone has that sense of respect.

  9 comments for “Native American petroglyphs vandalized and stolen from federal lands

  1. November 19, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    I just want to scream.

  2. Vin
    November 19, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    Why does so much of this stuff happen in the USA? Is it an ingrained/learned contempt for other cultures or is it super insensitive vandals/profiteers? We have thousands of Aboriginal Sites here in Australia…some of the worlds oldest cave paintings…..but I’ve never heard of ANYTHING as audacious and destructive as this…

  3. November 19, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    There is a small, but active minority of people in the U.S. who take out their anger against peoples, and symbols of peoples who they blame for all of their failures in life. Anyone who is not them is a potential target, because it’s easy to dehumanize someone who is seen as ‘different’. I don’t know that people who would do this, have a clear goal in mind, other than to express their anger. It just seems senseless.

    BTW, I’m Jewish (at least that’s how I was raised) and we’ve also been a big target for vandalism, whether it’s synagogues, community centers, and/or cemeteries. And this is not something isolated to the U.S.

  4. spookyparadigm
    November 19, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    I’m almost certain these were stolen for money. They may quote an expected price, but that doesn’t mean stupid people (by the way, this is a felony) won’t do it.

  5. spookyparadigm
    November 19, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    I’d also be curious who the guys who did it end up being. Chainsawing out blocks is standard technique at Maya sites, where monuments are chopped into pieces for sale and transport (a non power tool technique, even more destructive, is building a fire at the stone and then throwing water on it so it shatters into pieces.

  6. November 19, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    I thought the price they quoted was awfully low.

  7. spookyparadigm
    November 19, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    I actually have no real idea of the prices artifacts go for. And in a case like this, it certainly isn’t going to be openly sold or displayed.

  8. One Eyed Jack
    November 20, 2012 at 2:37 AM

    Has this story been verified?

    It just got me thinking about a similar story not too long ago from Canada that later turned out to be false.

  9. November 20, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    That Canada one was weird but this one is certain. There is a video that shows what happened. It is being widely reported.

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