Ethics

Attitude, Stewardship, and Ethics for Archaeological Site Preservation

Ancient cultural heritage in North America is disappearing without any record. For this reason we must take the utmost caution to limit our impact on the landscape in the event of discovery, when recording, or while visiting archaeological sites in general, and rock art sites in particular. As stewards of past, there are many good reasons for adopting an attitude of respect. Importantly, rock art is sacred to many Native Americans, and it is a part of prehistory for everyone . From an attitude of respect, we should endeavor to protect the past for future generations to study and enjoy. Enjoy rock art sites in a spirit of respectfulness, and connect with the past. This page offers ten general recommendations for site visitation.

There Are a Few Things You Should Consider Before Visiting a Rock Art Site.

1. It is a good idea to not touch rock art. Touching rock art with your hands can rub the paint off pictographs and wear away petroglyph surfaces. Your hands leave oil and grit on the surface of anything you touch. Believe it or not, rock surfaces are alive – teaming with bacteria, lichen, and other microorganisms. Altering this surface, from a scientific perspective, can arrest the development of natural processes, and therefore confound their rate of formation, which may some day be used to estimate the age of the rock art. Please do not touch, walk, climb on rock art.

2. It is also good idea to not smoke, camp, or build fires within one-quarter mile of a rock art site or archaeological site. Even building a camp fire near a rock art site can cause heat damage, spalling, and blackening of fragile rock surfaces.

3. You should not collect or disturb any archaeological remains. Do not remove vegetation such as lichens, moss, leaves, vines, roots, or trees. Collecting artifacts or disturbing archaeological features (such as hearths, rock arrangements, and soil) can destroy the context of the site, and information about the past is lost for ever.

4. Step lightly and minimize your impact on the nature environment. Do not litter or leave behind anything.

5. Never graffiti rock art sites, even though someone else may have done so. Pecking, engraving, scratching, rubbing or repainting destroys rock art sites forever. Do not attempt to remove graffiti.

6. You should not apply any substance such as liquid, powder, plastic, chalk, cloth, soil, or paper to enhance photography or drawing. Despite the ability to enhance photography, application of materials to rock art surfaces may forever alter its integrity. This has been found to be particularly true in radio metric age estimation of rock surfaces.

7. You should not allow your children or pets to conduct themselves in a manner that may damage rock art sites.

8. It is a good idea to minimize the number of vehicles when visiting a rock art site. Stay on existing roads and trails. Do not create your own trail or road. Where possible stay at least 10 feet from rock art panels.

9. Be a steward for cultural heritage! If you discover a rock art site, report your discoveries to officials as soon as possible. Your local University may have archaeologists to help you. In addition, every state has a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Contact them to report your discoveries of rock art or recent site damage, along with any information about vandals.

10. Importantly, you should observe the rules of the site land owner or public land management where they are more restrictive than all of the above. Obtain permission before you visit.

Remember that laws have been enacted to protect archaeological and historic sites and there are stiff penalties for damaging them.