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Vandals Deface ‘Birthing Rock,’ 1000-Year-Old Rock Art in Utah

Vandals Deface ‘Birthing Rock,’ 1000-Year-Old Rock Art in Utah

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Utah has become a modern center of vandalism, where the socially untethered who live outside the confines of the law that most of us adhere to commit crimes against both new and old creations. Now, a panel of ancient indigenous rock art has been destroyed, in what is becoming a disturbing pattern across America.

Another ancient petroglyph panel, known as the “Birthing Rock,” has been vandalized in Moab, Utah. Enraged, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals. A string of immature obscenities was painted across the rock face in Utah in a region that was recently attacked by a rock climber from Colorado. The Art Newspaper explained how the climber damaged an ancient petroglyph panel known as the Sunshine Wall near Arches National Park by installing climbing bolts on and around the rock art.

The Birthing Rock prior to the vandalism. (Jim Hedd / BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Birthing Rock prior to the vandalism. (Jim Hedd / BY-NC-SA 2.0)

After this latest incident BLM has offered $10,000 for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for defacing the panel. BLM said in a statement that they were planning to remove the paint from the rock panel, and to prevent further damage it had to remind the public “to not attempt to clean or remove the graffiti.”

Utah’s Fight Against “Criminal Mischief”

Last year, one of those tacky monoliths was discovered at Canyonlands National Park in Utah and it was removed after an uncontrollable influx of visitors trashed the site. But what exactly has been destroyed in Utah now?

An ancient rock art panel, known as the “Birthing Rock,” has been vandalized in Moab, Utah. (Moab Sun News)

An ancient rock art panel, known as the “Birthing Rock,” has been vandalized in Moab, Utah. (Moab Sun News)

The Moab region is home to some of the most significant archaeological sites and national parks in North America and the Birthing Rock petroglyphs are located in territory belonging to the Anasazi, Fremont, and Ute cultures. The images are based on celestial observations and decorated with animal and human figures. Although there is no reliable dating technique for rock art void of organic matter, archaeologists have dated the panel’s artwork to around 1,000 years ago.

A panel of the "Birthing Rock" rock art in Moab, Utah, prior to its defacement with racist and obscene carvings. (I.M. Stile/CC BY-NC 2.0)

A panel of the "Birthing Rock" rock art in Moab, Utah, prior to its defacement with racist and obscene carvings. (I.M. Stile/CC BY-NC 2.0)

According to Inter Mountain Legal, under Utah law “those convicted of painting graffiti may be ordered to pay restitution for any damage caused or to remove the offending graffiti at their own expense.” “Vandalism” is called “criminal mischief” under Utah law and it can be graded in court anywhere from a Class B misdemeanor for less than $500 in damage to a second-degree felony for more than $5,000.

Educating the Great Undereducated

It is not without a sense of sadness that the state of Utah recently launched the Stop Archaeological Vandalism initiative, which says it “seeks to educate the public about rock art and historic sites,” in the hope they stop destroying them. The trouble with this initiative is that those people who commit the crimes are certainly not reading about it, because the underlying problem is that many of them simply cannot read.

If you research why the world is experiencing a rise in low level crime you will find that one of the major underlying problems is falling IQs. According to JRank, the central question of IQ-crime studies is whether individuals with less intelligence, on average, commit more crime than those with more intelligence. The best answer is a qualified “yes” as delinquents and criminals average “IQ scores 8 to 10 points lower than noncriminals, which is about one-half a standard deviation.”

With falling IQs vandalism is on the increase, and a 2018 CNN article said that in America “IQ scores have been steadily falling for the past few decades,” according to a PNAS study.

But don’t for a moment think this is an American problem, for Dr. Ole Rogeberg, a senior research fellow at the Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research in Norway, said his study demonstrated that Denmark, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Finland, and Estonia are all on a “downward trend in IQ scores.” Hence, a rise in low level crimes, like what has just occurred in Utah, again.

Top Image: Birthing Rock, an ancient rock art panel near Moab, Utah. Source: Anne Lindgren /Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie



Thanks for expanding on the story of the gentleman who accidentally defaced the rock-art with his climbing bolts. I also agree that the deliberate defacing of the rock-art does have a lot to do with the conflict over land-use in that part of the country. As to your last sentence; there are so many people who are not Using their intellegence. They “educate” themselves with mis-information out of some un-balanced emotional need. As to the Defacers of the art, they don’t want to use their intellegence nor any form of understanding or compassion. For them it’s just too much “fun” being vicious. 

In his very limited defense, the guy who inserted the climbing bolts went to the nearest ranger station and turned himself in as soon as he realized what he had done.   He didn’t cause further damage by trying to yank them out to cover his crimes.

Another important factor, at least in the western US, is the vitriolic politics of land use.  It is one of the driving energies of the area.  The region is divided into small parcels of federal, tribal, and private land.  All have competing interests and the antognism runs deep.  Long running resentments in Utah have been stoked recently by the ongoing Bear’s Ears monument debacle.  

And also, not only are people getting dumber, they think they are getting smarter.  It is a dangerous mix.  

Admitting that there are racist elements at work is not the same as hating white men, or thinking they are the boogey man.  I know the narrative you are upset about, and you should be.  It is also counter productive and based on emotional reaction.  I worry that too many people of all sorts are misdirecting their justifiable rage, but that;s just me.

The truth  in this area is that it is more about long simmering land use resentments and grudges that go back hundreds if not thousands of years.  Between tribes, ranchers, gas and oil, mining, and everybody hates the feds.  So primarily, it isn’t racist, but everyone shits on the Natives anyway.  It’s just true.

The rock art damage is probably usually done by drunk bozos without any real point at all.

Bruce Nowakowski's picture

Bull.   I’m sick and tired of you bigotted pieces of garbage accusing others of your own racist mantra.  White people aren’t the boogeymen you fascists think they are and there is no proof this is a white supremacy issue.   If anything its probably Antifa doing it as they have a habit of destroying statues and other works of culture. 

This Vandalism is really more that the result simple ignorance. The native american rock art existed undisturbed even during the time where the decendants of the original creators of said art were being killed & corralled as a consequence of ‘manifest destiny’.  If this vandalism is very recent then it's a result of followers of the previous ‘pontus' doing thier bit on behalf of the so-called 'cutlure wars’.  “Fighting back" agianst the BLM & other Movements that benefit the various people of color.  These are acts of thuggish-’low brow’ white supremacy 

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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