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On Vandalism of Rock Art

From Stone Chisel and Yucca Brush:

“A common experience for rock art aficionados is to arrive at a reportedly spectacular site only to discover that previous visitors painted or carved names, dates, modern symbols, slogans, and other remarks over or adjacent to the Native American images. Perpetrators of such graffiti actually claim to hold a certain kinship with rock art iconography. More poignantly, they consider rock art as the first recognizable manifestation of graffiti, referring to it as ‘archeograffiti.’ Based on this rationale they have no compunctions about adding their own signs to the existing paleoart.

However, while graffiti is intrinsically defined as illicit, the motivation for rock art was licit. That is, it was condoned, supported, and even encouraged by the social group to whom the art belonged. Rock art thus does not constitute archaeograffiti, and graffiti, whether witty or aesthetically pleasing, gang-related or politically motivated, is tantamount to vandalism.”


– Ekkehart Malotki & Donald E. Weaver Jr.