Ancient cave paintings in Chile have been irreversibly damaged by idiots who have spray painted over them.
The recent discovery of the graffiti scrawled across 1,400-year-old cave paintings in the Anzota Caves has caused outrage at both the vandals and the lack of protection by officials of the ancient site.
Discovered in the 1960s, the Cuevas de Anzota are located in the Arica province of northern Chile and have been free and open to the public since. The surrounding area had been rebooted to encourage tourism to the area and the visitors have indeed visited, flocking to see the depictions of animals and water vessels that portrayed once local traditions, on the cave walls.
However, the current state of the paintings was recently brought to light by Chilean musician Felipe Sandoval who shared photos of the walls with spray-painted graffiti scrawled across them on Twitter.
Worse, when he notified the authorities, it turned out the graffiti wasn’t new, they'd known about it and still hadn’t put up any protection around the caves to prevent further damage from happening.
“Outrageous. The rock paintings of camelids, belonging to the Tiwanaku in the caves of Anzota, Arica culture (600 d.C approx.) were scratched with spray paint,” Sandoval wrote.
“Irreparable damage to our heritage. How long?”
The Anzota caves are in an area known to have been used as a settlement by the Chinchorro people of South America who lived between 7000 and 1500 BCE. The famous Chinchorro mummies, the oldest examples of mummification known so far (pre-dating Egyptians by about 2,000 years), were found nearby.
The cave paintings, however, were by the Tiwanaku, a Pre-Columbian people who inhabited the area around 600 CE. The Tiwanaku lasted from 300 CE to 1150 CE and arrived from Bolivia into present-day Peru and Chile.
Although there were signs outside the caves stating it as an "Archaeological Site preserved for future study and enhancement", no protections were actually in place to prevent any harm from happening to the caves and to ensure the paintings were preserved.
Thankfully, Sandoval’s highlighting of the matter has meant that the Chilean Council of National Monuments has now visited the caves and is planning to do a study of the remaining artworks.
Officials have admitted that the scratching and spray painting are not recent examples of vandalism but that they didn’t clean the graffiti off “for prudence”, according to EL PAÍS.
Archaeologist Marcela Sepúlveda also told EL PAÍS that the damage done is “irreparable” and that "any intervention to clean it will also affect the panel".
Hopefully, the awareness and outrage raised will force the government to improve its game when it comes to preserving and protecting national monuments of cultural importance, so this situation doesn't arise again.