Vandals Scratch Racist Phrase Over 2,000-Year-Old Native American Petroglyphs In Utah


Katy Evans

Katy is Managing Editor at IFLScience where she oversees editorial content from News articles to Features, and even occasionally writes some.

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The Birthing rock in Moab, Utah is between 750 and 2,5000 years old. Image credit: Jim Hedd, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Vandals have etched a racist phrase, “white power”, as well as other graffiti, over millennia-old Native American petroglyphs in Utah.

The Bureau of Land Management Utah has announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.


Rock art sites on federal lands are nationally protected areas and it is strongly prohibited to touch the art as even oil from fingertips can irreparably damage the fragile rock surface.


The four-panel collection of petroglyphs known as the “Birthing Rock” in Moab, Utah was etched into the red sandstone boulder’s four sides by Indigenous inhabitants sometime between 700 and 2,500 years ago. The depictions cover the periods and cultures from the Anasazi (1 to 1275 BCE), Fremont (450 to 1250 BCE), and the Ute (1200 to 1880 BCE).

It’s thought the petroglyphs on the rock depict a woman giving birth as well as anthropomorphic figures, animals such as bighorn sheep, bears, snakes, and centipedes, and geometric patterns.


On Monday, April 26, a tour guide noticed the graphic scribbles across one side of the boulder’s artwork, reports Fox 13. Someone had attempted to write “white power”, misspelled the word “white” and so crossed it out and wrote it again.


Other unimaginative graffiti included an ejaculating penis, the words “eat ass” and other words to describe women’s genitalia. Only one panel remained undamaged.

This is the fourth act of vandalism on Indigenous culturally important writings in months, following the vandalism of 1,000-year-old Creek and Cherokee rock carvings at Track Rock Gap in north Georgia in early April and the defacement of pictographs west of Bend in Oregon in December.

In March, a Colorado rock climber damaged another set of Moab petroglyphs when he drilled bolts into the rock face of Sunshine Wall to map a new climbing route, dismissing the petroglyphs as "graffiti", according to the Smithsonian magazine.


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