What to Consider When Visiting Rock Art Sites

Visiting archaeological sites can be a great way to connect with nature and involve kids in a fun, family-oriented adventure. Yet when visitors flock to these important locations, they might end up littering or even damaging the site itself. It is practices like that, among others, which have slowly eroded the beauty of these sites. When visiting rock art sites, we should appreciate the culture and art of older civilizations and also learn to preserve their majesty for future visitors to enjoy.

The Effects of Visitors at Archaeology Sites

People might not intend to disturb the art at archaeological sites, but large numbers of tourists are bound to cause some damage. Visitors who intentionally damage rock art sites are undoubtedly the biggest part of the problem. These practices can be anything from touching the walls the art rests on to littering throughout the archaeological site. Visitors could even go so far as to purposefully draw or write over the art.

However, far more people unintentionally damage these archaeological sites. This leads to the eventual erosion of the art from the walls, alteration of the archaeological site and permanent loss of important cultural history. Loss of these sites means we will lose a link to a piece of history – one we may never recover again. That’s why learning how to preserve our history is important.

How to Visit a Rock Art Site

Quite a few independent conservation organizations provide information on proper etiquette for visiting archaeological sites. One such organization called Friends of Cedar Mesa has tips on how to protect ancient sites:

  • Teach Children: Children may not understand the gravity of the sites they are visiting and may be inclined to touch artifacts or excavations. It’s important to educate them on the importance of preservation and conservancy from a young age.
  • Don’t Touch Artifacts: Even though these artifacts have survived for hundreds or even thousands of years, human contact can leave behind damaging oils that do a significant amount of harm.
  • Be Mindful of Walls: The walls may seem sturdy, but they are part of an ongoing process of movement and can become unstable as other sections undergo their own excavations. Stay away from walls, and try not to lean against them.
  • No Pets: Some people may want to take their dog or other pet on hikes into ancient excavation sites; however, it’s best to leave pets at home on these trips. Pets can cause damage by either digging or stepping on something they shouldn’t.
  • Obey Signs: Most areas will have signs directing you onto certain paths. Be sure to look out for these signs to make sure you follow the right route.

These are just a few of the tips you can follow to help make a difference in protecting our national heritage sites.


Public Intervention Campaigns

A lot of organizations are dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage sites and ancient archaeological sites. In addition to Friends of Cedar Mesa, there are others like Tread Lightly and The Archaeological Conservancy. Of course, federal, state and local governments also enforce preservation laws and monitor for vandalism, but they can only do so much.

With millions of Americans visiting archaeological sites every year, it’s unrealistic to monitor everybody. You are the best steward for protecting the sites and ancient cultural histories we admire. By following a few key steps and being aware of the potential harm human activities can do, you can preserve ancient history for many generations to come.

Published by Nikki M

Applied Anthropologist and Digital Dance Specialist

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