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Coso Rock Art | protection / u.s. navy's china lake / petroglyph national monument
protection Petroglyph national monument

Sometimes public involvement becomes the only source of protection for archeological and other cultural resources. Take, for instance, the case of New Mexico's Petroglyph National Monument.

Petroglyph NM was created in 1990 to preserve both urban greenspace and an invaluable collection of Puebloan rock images. Today, the park faces the threat of increased pollution and easier access for vandals and looters resulting from two highways that are planned to be routed through it.

Alarmed at the prospect of heavy construction blasting through a canyon covered with irreplaceable petroglyphs sacred to some twenty tribes, park employees and local Native groups raised objections to the plan. Citizen groups organized resistance to the project, with some success.

Nevertheless, the issue is far from settled. And like Albuquerque, other cities and towns face the same sorts of pressures: managing growth and transportation needs that may be at odds with the protection of natural and cultural resources.

Federal land management agencies remain committed to—and challenged by—the need to preserve the nation's cultural resources. Ultimately, however, it is up to all of us to preserve and protect our shared past.

 

(photo) Petroglyph NM landscape with large volcano. © Per Bothner and Nathan Williams, 2002.

PUBLIC SPACE, SACRED PLACE

For some, Petroglyph NM is a world-class tourist destination; for others, it is a neighborhood park. Some come to study its resources; for some it is an obstacle to development. For still others, it is a sacred place and a living monument to their history.

Like the Coso Rock Art District, Petroglyph National Monument sits on a stunning volcanic landscape, with a steep escarpment covered by thousands of petroglyphs. Some images seem strangely familiar, and not completely unlike those at Coso. Others are unique to this place and convey a sense of its own history.

Click the links to view Petroglyph NM's images.

(photo) Volunteers reviewing documents on hood of jeep.  By PNM. (photo) Volunteers photographing petroglyphs in Monument.  By PNM. (photo) Volunteers photographing petroglyphs in Monument.  By PNM.

RECORDING THE PAST

Just as area residents have rallied to safeguard the integrity of Petroglyph NM, so have they volunteered to help the park manage its spectacular cultural resources. The first step in this effort was to find and record the petroglyphs.

Armed with cameras, global positioning systems, and drawing supplies, a dozen or so members of the Volunteer Petroglyph Inventory Crew worked for the last decade to locate, map, and record the individual images and their condition. With an average age of 70, the volunteers brought a host of experience, skills, and insight to the project, eventually recording over 20,000 images. Their labor of love gives the Park Service invaluable information to help protect and preserve the Monument's petroglyphs.

(photo) Images of human handprints pecked into volcanic stone.  By PNM.

SPIRIT AND STONE

For Albuquerque's Native population, Petroglyph NM is a revered and sacred place. Protection of the site is their paramount concern.

Puebloan spokespersons help frame the issue by pointing out that Petroglyph is akin to a large and ancient cathedral. They ask simply that their religious places be given the same consideration accorded those of other faiths.

Likewise, local Indians advise park personel on how to interpret and treat the images respectfully. The Park Service, in turn, uses their insights to help educate the broader public.

Places like Petroglyph National Monument and the Coso Rock Art District are valuable not only because they help us understand particular chapters in human history, but because they speak to broader themes that connect us all, written here in spirit and stone.

MJB