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Arizona petroglyphs vandalized

Vandals have damaged priceless rock art at Picture Rocks in Arizona.

“People have been seen vandalizing petroglyphs. There has been some damage – defacing of the rocks,” said Peter Tran, assistant director of the Redemptorist Renewal Center, 7101 W. Picture Rocks Road.

The center owns the land where rock outcrops are covered with more than 100 petroglyphs dating from about A.D. 900 to 1350. The carvings, believed to be the work of ancient Indians known as the Hohokam, depict animals, human-like figures, solstice and equinox markers, spirals and other designs.

Archaeologist Allen Dart – executive director of the Old Pueblo Archaeology Center and a principal investigator for the EcoPlan Associates consulting firm – inspected the site this week for signs of vandalism.

It’s not possible to determine how many vandalism incidents have occurred in recent years, but Tran and Dart noted at least two serious examples.

One, said Dart, was an image that apparently was partly pecked into the rock and partly formed using chalk.

“It looked kind of like an owl’s face,” he said.

Tran said a nun reported an incident last year in which she observed a woman and girl “vandalizing part of the petroglyph underneath the goat” – referring to a carving that resembles a bighorn sheep.

“The sister saw that a piece of rock was missing where they had been chipping at it,” Tran said.

He said he has noted another defacement – the letters “MML” carved on a rock above the bighorn sheep figure.

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