Message #239: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Appropriate Access To Petroglypgh Sites Date: Fri, 20 Jun 1997 21:16:47 -0700 ROCKY TIMES FOR ROCK ART -- Petroglyphs at Little Red Rock Canyon have withstood nature's elements but may not survive the forces of vandals. Keith Rogers Review-Journal A thousand years ago, Indians from three cultures congregated on the red sandstone outcroppings that overlook the Las Vegas Valley to etch and paint cryptic symbols, expressions of their lives. They left their marks for all to see: doll-like figurines and stick figures of people holding hands; the sun; a shield; a chief with a headdress from a bighorn sheep. They also etched sketches of agave, a tall desert plant. Archaeologists believe the gatherings centered around the harvest of agave, which was roasted in pits of charcoal and cracked limestone along with other seasonally available plants. After decades of use these large, doughnut-shaped pits, too, became part of the landscape at Little Red Rock Canyon. Little Red Rock is part of the Summerlin West planned development but it falls outside the boundaries of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The area had all the amenities for survival in the harsh desert climate. Depressions in the sandstone formations served as natural water tanks, or "tenajas," to catch rainwater. Pine trees and the steep canyon walls provided shade and shelter. Centuries passed, and tribes from the Southern Paiute and the lower Colorado River would return for the annual agave harvest. But the third culture, the Anasazi from the Virgin River near what is now Logandale, vanished, leaving as reminders their distinctive, fired pottery and paintings on canyon walls. During the 1830s and early 1840s, when Santa Fe traders from the New Mexico Territory and later Mormon pioneers began passing through the valley, the Indians would etch pictures of them. Women were depicted wearing dresses. The men had cowboy hats. As Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Stanton Rolf put it: "That is the Native American depiction of white people moving through the area." "It's a very common part of the motif in the Red Rocks," he said. "Sometimes you find (etchings) of wagons and men in cowboy hats, including horses with reins." Now more than 150 years later, the urbanization of Las Vegas is leaving its mark on canyon walls. On a visit last week to Little Red Rock Canyon, Jeff Rhoads, advanced planning manager for The Howard Hughes Corp.'s Summerlin Division, noticed that vandals in the last six months had defaced the sandstone walls near some of the petroglyphs. The vandals used white spray paint to write, "Lance," scribble ethnic slurs and draw a sexually explicit scene. "It's really sad, now that there's all this paint and crud," Rhoads said. "There's a lot more graffiti here. These guys, Lance and company, have been pretty busy." Red, white and blue paint was poured above some of the tenajas, and scraps of wood and chopped palm tree trunks had been hauled to the site as fuel for campfires. An empty Budweiser box was left behind, as were shell casings from bullets that had been shot at the petroglyphs, leaving them pocked and marred. Even though the Summerlin property has "No Trespassing" signs posted, the vastness of the area, which flanks Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, makes it difficult to patrol, Rhoads said. But he and Rolf believe a controlled-access, low-density development that incorporates the outcroppings as part of a design for a golf course or park would afford more protection to the ancient rock art than it has now. "Hopefully the plans will help police it if they develop it correctly," Rolf said. He said volunteers from a citizens group, the Nevada Historical Preservation Office and the Bureau of Land Management are recording the Little Red Rock site for nomination in the National Register of Historical Places as an archaeological district. The designation would elevate awareness about the historical significance of the site, and possibly afford it more protection. Some 20,000 homes for 50,000 people are projected for Summerlin's western edge, which includes Little Red Rock Canyon. Plans also call for one hotel with gaming. Those numbers bother critics of the plan, who fear the development would only lead to more vandalism, even though public access to the area would be limited. But Rhoads is quick to note that there are already more than 1 million people in the area and vandalism has been on the rise. We're not out here to destroy this resource," he said. "We're looking for creative solutions to provide appropriate access to these sites." "We believe it is quite possible to preserve these things in the midst of sensitive development," Rhoads said.