Nevada’s rock art and archaeology are at risk from rapid urban growth and increased leisure use of desert areas. In recent years, damage at archaeological sites has taken the form of vandalism (defacement and graffiti), theft of portable rock art boulders, and looting of cultural deposits.  Some damage is inadvertent, caused by ignorance of the long-term consequences of what seem harmless activities and sometimes just from the pressure of numbers of visitors. Erosion may be caused by visitors by repeatedly following the same trails; abrasive dust thrown up by visitors may erode rock art panels; and repeated touching of rock art panels can result in wear. In the past some rock art was damaged by chalking images to enhance photography. The effects of time itself (exposure to the elements) is also slowly eroding Nevada’s rock art and archaeology, such as exfoliation of rock surfaces that bear rock art, and erosion caused by wind and rain.

Help protect Nevada culture heritage

You can help preserve Nevada’s rock art and archaeology by following the guidelines for site visitation that have been established by land managers. Always stick to established trails, avoid making contact with rock art and other archaeological features, do not pick up or collect artifacts that may be present, and never add foreign materials (such as chalk or water) to rock art to make it more visible for photography. The setting of archaeological sites is an important way that they convey information about their past uses to archaeologists. Disturbing that context (by removing artifacts or adding graffiti), diminishes an archaeological site’s capacity to communicate its heritage significance to site visitors and researchers. By leaving no trace of your visit to an archaeological site, you help ensure that it survives for future generations to visit and enjoy. If you would like to do more to help preserve Nevada’s archaeological heritage, consider volunteering as a site steward in the state’s culture heritage monitoring program. Across the state, volunteer site stewards periodically monitor the condition of archaeological sites, helping to ensure the long-term protection and conservation of Nevada’s culture heritage.