‘This is not an accident’: Well-known Moab petroglyph damaged by vandalism
Carter Williams, KSL.com
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MOAB, Utah (KSL.com) — A famous petroglyph in Grand County depicting births over several hundreds of years ago was recently damaged by vandals, local officials said Tuesday.
The vandalism was first spotted at “Birthing Rock,” alternately known as “Birthing Scene Petroglyph,” near Moab Monday, said Grand County Commission Chairwoman Mary McGann. She said three of four panels were heavily damaged.
It wasn’t clear who came across the damage first, but people visiting the site and tour guides were the first to come across the noticeable vandalism, she said. Pictures of the damage that emerged on social media showed that the petroglyphs were defaced with scribbling in addition to vulgar phrases and imagery and term “white power.”
Birthing Rock includes birthing images drawn on the rock from Native American groups at least as far back as the Ancestral Puebloan Culture, a couple thousand years ago, Climb-Utah wrote. More petroglyph drawings were added through the years.
McGann called it a “very unique” piece of Utah history.
“I don’t think there’s any other similar type of rock art panel,” she told KSL.com. “It seems to be a celebration of birth. It’s very beautiful, very sacred.”
The rock is located along Kane Creek Drive a few miles southeast of Moab, which is a popular route for people heading to motor vehicle and biking recreation spots in the area.
A wooden fence was put up in recent years to keep people away from the rock and attempt to stop potential vandals as a result of an increase of visitation to the area, McGann said. That’s why she believes whoever damaged the rock did so on purpose.
“The person who did this had to climb the fence and it had to be very intentional,” she said. “This is not an accident.”
It wasn’t exactly clear how significant the damage is as experts are expected to tour the damage this week and see what can be repaired, according to McGann. She added that the Bureau of Land Management is aware of the incident and more information about what happened is expected to be released soon.
KSL.com reached out to the BLM, which declined to comment about the incident.
McGann also said it’s important that people do not attempt to fix the damage themselves since that could lead to more damage, even if that damage is unintentional.
Other land vandalism has been reported in Grand County and across Utah over the past several years. The latest incident comes on the heels of damage done to another ancient petroglyph located north of Moab found earlier this month.
A Colorado man told the Colorado Springs Gazette that he mistook the ancient rock art for graffiti and that he contacted the Bureau of Land Management’s field office in Moab to confess to the damage after he was made aware of what he did.
The outlet pointed out that first-time violators can face fines up to $20,000 and one year of prison under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.
McGann said news of the most recent incident quickly made its way around the area and local businesses were working together to provide a “huge” reward for information regarding the vandalism.