Vandalism Continues to Occur at Prehistoric Rock Art Sites

Release Date: May 1, 2019

SILVER CITY, NM; May 1, 2019 For Immediate Release – The Gila National Forest is home to over 200 recorded prehistoric rock art sites. Rock art is extremely fragile, once damaged the site can never be repaired to its original condition. Visitors to the rock art sites across the Gila National Forest may notice that these places have not always been respected.

The attached photos are vandalism found at Chloride Creek on the Black Range Ranger District. Damaging rock art sites reflects the disrespect of a few for a cultural history that belongs to us all— a history that the Gila National Forest is mandated to protect.

photo of vandalism on rock art (1)   photo of vandalism on rock art (2)       photo of vandalism on rock art (3)

Rock art sites are considered sacred by many people. There are two types of rock art: petroglyphs (motifs that are pecked, ground, incised, abraded, or scratched on the rock surface) and pictographs (paintings or drawings in one or more colors using mineral pigments and plant dyes on the rock surface). The patterns and motifs may be similar, but are never quite the same. Styles vary from place to place, and from culture to culture.

Each of us has the opportunity to do our part to protect this heritage for future generations. Please follow the rock art etiquette guidelines below when visiting rock art sites.

Rock Art Etiquette:

  • Avoid touching the rock art or surfaces around it. Surprising as it may seem, the oils in a single handprint can chemically affect the rocksurface.

  • Do not apply any substance to the rock art surface, including water or any otherfluids.

  • Although you may think that you are helping others to see the rock art, do not trace images with sticks, stones, chalk, or othersubstances.

  • We appreciate your care and concern for rock art sites, but do not attempt to remove graffiti, chalking, lichen, bird droppings, or anything else from rock art. Site repair can be made more difficult by the good intentions of those without technicalexpertise.

  • Do not collect or disturb artifacts or features at rock artsites.

  • Speak out to prevent damage to rock art and report new rock artdestruction.

Archaeological sites are fragile, irreplaceable, and protected by law. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979 protects sites for the benefit of all. This law states that it is illegal to collect or disturb archaeological materials on public land without a permit issued from the appropriate land managing agency, and this includes collecting arrowheads or other isolated finds. Violators will be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000.00 and confiscation of vehicles and equipment used in committing the crime.

We thank you for appreciating and respecting these very special places and for helping others do the same.  For information on the Gila National Forest, check out our website at or join the conversation on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter @GilaNForest.








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