|10 May 2009
Controversy over cleaning of ancient art in Utah
An archaeologist claims someone has been secretly cleaning a Utah tourist attraction. If so, the mysterious high-pressure washes may be damaging world-famous rock art in Nine Mile Canyon. A tourist-friendly development was just completed near the rock art. Fence-rails were put up, a pedestrian walkway was created, and the gravel road was moved further away from ancient Indian art called The Great Hunt Panel. It was a collaborative effort by government, industry and archeology lovers to preserve and protect. "Basically, a beautification project around the panel, which is a very well known, world-class rock art panel," explained Lavonne J. Garrison, with the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Archaeologist Pam Miller, with the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition at the College of Eastern Utah, said, "The net effect is that it says that somebody is taking care of this place and it means something."
But that spirit of cooperation is harder to detect in the larger issues of Nine Mile Canyon, which some fear is already losing the battle against industrialization. The biggest issue is dust from hundreds of industry vehicles. Miller says dust is obscuring many ancient artworks. "We suspect it's being damaged, but we don't have scientific studies yet," she said. But the most famous one, the Great Hunt Panel, seems brighter, more colorful, less dusty, even compared with art a few feet away. Miller believes someone has washed the Great Hunt Panel at least two or three times with high-pressure equipment. "I think it's bad. I think it has the potential to really damage the site," she said.
State Trust Land officials who control the land surrounding the Great Hunt Panel recently upset archeology lovers by authorizing more drilling a few miles away. They believe rainfall may be cleaning the Great Hunt Panel. "Trust lands would never authorize anyone to power wash the panel," Garrison said. Even if it is getting a wash job, it's not clear which side might be responsible: a misguided soul who loves the art, or someone who wants to clean up the image of the energy industry.
Source: KSL.com (8 May 2009)
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