While on our way to the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park we stopped at a small roadside attraction called Newspaper Rock. The Navajos call it “Tse Hone” which means “rock that tells a story”. It’s a site where ancient petroglyphs were first carved about 2,000 years ago. I have never seen this many petroglyphs in one place before in my life. It is simply amazing.
The rock itself is sandstone whose iron and manganese content has oxidized through the ages. There is also a specific bacterial element also involved in the process. Thousands of years are required for sandstone to turn black.
There are over 600 figures carved into the ‘desert varnish’ by Native Americans dating back to both prehistoric and historic times at Newspaper Rock. The oldest figures are fading by the same process that turned the sandstone black in the first place. Nobody really knows why this site has so many figures and why it was used throughout the ages.
Currently this site is open to the public and access is not restricted. Sadly the site is also plagued by vandals who have no respect for antiquities and preservation of a remarkable site. What concerns me is the ‘what if’. What if vandals destroy an undiscovered ancient Anasazi equivalent to the Rosetta Stone? So much could be lost and possible many mysteries would remain unsolved forever.
More is unknown about the ancient Anasazi that inhabited the Southwest than what is known. They built cities, cultivated the land and had an evolved societal structure for close to a thousand years. Yet they completely disappeared sometime around the 13th century and nobody knows why. How tragic would it be to lose the answer due to a despicable act of vandalism?
Now I know my readers would never commit such an act. But come on people, show a little respect.