People have inhabited the area that today makes up Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas for at least 13,000 years. At some point during what archaeologists refer to as the Archaic Period, which stretches back 8,500 years, people began carving abstract shapes into a massive boulder. That boulder remains long after the original inhabitants left, and their art has kept silent vigil over the desert landscape since.

But sometime last month, “Isaac, Ariel, Norma, and Adrian” decided to scratch their names over the millennia-old panel of petroglyphs, obscuring and destroying the ancient art beneath. The National Park Service tried to restore the panel, but the damage is irreparable.

How the rock now looks. Photo: NPS

“The surface scratches and discoloration are permanent,” said Tom VandenBerg, an archaeologist who works with the park. “Ancient rock art is protected, and links humanity to our past. Every site damaged is a loss to the history and heritage that national parks protect.”


The park has documented fifty such vandalizations of rock art and other cultural sites since 2015.

Authorities are adamant that if you encounter defacement of rock art, leave it be and alert park officials, who can bring the resources of trained personnel to mitigate the damage.

As for this most recent bit of vandalism, the park is asking for tips about the persons involved. Please contact the Big Bend National Park Communication Center at 432-477-1187 if you have information about the incident.

Top photo: Gary Nored/Flickr

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