Ancient American rock art under fire

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by Annika Backe

October 29, 2015 – While Germany is currently discussing the latest amendments to the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the U.S. American State of Utah faces a completely different problem: Many residents visit the local National Parks mainly to improve their shooting skills by firing on historical petroglyphs.

The Canyonlands National Park in the U.S. State of Utah.

Some of the most important works of American rock art are located in the Canyonlands National Park. The drawings from the Freemont Culture have survived the last two millennia without any major damage. Without any additional protection, they are exposed to the weather and acid rain, and there have been a few cases of fungus. Responsible for countless holes and cracked surfaces, however, are local gun enthusiasts.

Drawings in the Canyonlands National Park. Photograph: Scott Catron /

While shooting in public is legal in the United States, firing on natural heritage is forbidden under Utah County law. According to the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1976, any violation may be punished with a fine or even prison time. The number of illegal shooters adding up to 50,000 every year, on the other hand, renders any effective prosecution impossible.

Petroglyphs, photograph taken in 1962.

Scattered rubbish, TV sets and paint cans serving as targets, the ground is covered with fragments of all kinds which are dangerous to people and animals alike. The inhabitants of near-by farms report about damages on their property as a result of stray bullets and fear for their safety.
In an attempt to protect humans and art, the park management is now considering the installation of a shooting range on 160 acres of public land. It remains to be seen whether or not this action will prove successful: anyhow, the ‚Please do not shoot‘-signs were riddled with holes right away.
The main information has been taken from an article of hypoallergic.
Please find more details about the Canyonlands National Park here.
And filmic impressions of the Canyonlands National Park can be watched here.