They tell cryptic stories of the past, when the climate was cooler and wetter, and when man lived closer to nature.
Many of the images were carved into desert varnish, a thin red to black coating found on exposed rock surfaces.
Bureau of Land Management officials said the university-related incidents were reported by volunteer “petroglyph patrols” organized by the California Archeological Site Stewardship Program.
Mason was unavailable for comment. But David Lee, a stewardship program member and independent rock art researcher, recalled, “I’m the one who turned in the Caltech group.”
“Immediately after I spotted them,” he said, “I shot into town and notified BLM authorities. A short while later, Ranger Mason arrived at the scene.”
In Lee’s view however, the problem is far from solved. There is no petroglyph site on public land in the United States that is not at risk right now from vandalism, he said.
More volunteers are needed to keep an eye on these engraved messages from the past, Lee said, because federal land managers are overwhelmed by ever-increasing numbers of visitors.
“Why should we care? Because these images are still considered sacred by the descendants of the people who made them.”
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