Hunt for Vandals Who Defaced Ancient Rock Formation
Authorities in the US state of Illinois are searching for two vandals who defaced a 450-million-year-old rock formation at Starved Rock State Park, which was a sacred Native American gathering place. Stupidly, the pair then posted evidence of their vandalism on social media, and appear to be proud of their actions.
Starved Rock State Park is famous for its many caves, rock-shelters, and other geological features. They were formed in a prehistoric inland shallow sea and later emerged to the surface as the waters disappeared. The rock that was defaced is a sandstone formation which is known as ‘Council Overhang’ according to Newsweek. It is believed to be up to 425 million years old.
Native American Gathering Place
This rock formation was a gathering place for Native American tribes for up 8,000 years. It is believed that they held councils at the rock-shelter. This is thought to be the origin of the name ‘Council Overhang’. This site is only one of many cavern-like formations that were used by Native Americans before the coming of the Europeans, in the state park.
Council Overhang in Starved Rock State Park. (hakkun / CC BY-SA 3.0)
The vandalism was reported to the park authorities on the 2nd of September by a hiker. She saw a young male and female who had written some graffiti on the ancient rock formation. The hiker also overheard the pair saying that they would put up pictures of their vandalism on social media. She then found the image on Instagram after a search.
The images appear to show the couple after they graffitied the natural feature. Park superintendent Kerry Novak was quoted by The People’s Ledger as saying, “the photo shows ‘B+K’ inside a heart, but the other wording appears unclear”. In the picture, the man is giving a peace sign and laughing.
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Close up of the damage cause to the rock formation. (Daily Mail / Fair Use)
The female is wearing hiking gear and the male is wearing a baseball cap in the images. The park superintendent, according to the Daily Mail, said “he wasn't certain what was used by them to scrawl on the wall”.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the defacement is the apparent attitude of the vandals. They did not show any respect for the site or the national park. Novak stated that “they seemed pretty proud of it”, reports The People’s Ledger.
The Illinois Conservation Police were alerted and they began an investigation, but they “have not yet been able to confirm if the shots are genuine” according to the Daily Mail. The Starved Rock State Park authorities posted an image of the alleged vandals on their Facebook page.
Along with the image they posted the following statement “Art is beautiful but it is not meant to be carved, drawn, or painted on natural features at state and national parks!” reports the Daily Mail. They warned others not to act in a similar manner as the pair and urged members of the public to report them to the relevant authorities.
Increase in Vandalism at the State Park
After the image of the alleged vandals was posted on Facebook a number of people provided tips as to the identity of the duo. An earlier instance of defacement was also reported to the authorities. This involved carving some letters into another rock formation at the park.
Vandalism is on the increase at the park. This is becoming a major problem for the authorities. Novak told The People’s Ledger that “It’s very difficult to get this stuff cleaned up”. Moreover, it can be very expensive to clean up this sort of vandalism and indeed the defacement of the sandstone rock may have permanently damaged the rock formation.
Chalking, carving, and scratching are all types of graffiti on park rock formations. Depending on the damage, it may take a significant amount of work to remove. (NPS / Public Domain)
The image and the posts on the Facebook page of State Rock and Matthiessen State Parks have since been taken down. No reasons have been given for this, despite requests from local media. The investigation by the Illinois Conservation Police into the vandalism is continuing.
Top image: Pictures posted on online of the vandals who damaged the Council Overhang cavern in Starved Rock Park in Illinois over the Labor Day holiday. Source: Daily Mail / Fair Use.
By Ed Whelan