Monday, August 29, 2011


I am reprinting the following news story because of its importance as a precedent. While on the one hand it seems that this vandal is getting off lightly, on the other hand it is perhaps just right. Not a level of punishment to confirm him as a hardened criminal, but supposedly plenty to make him and others think twice about such acts of desecration. I fervently hope that the judge is correct and that this works.

Photo by K.M. Cannon, Las Vegas Review Journal.

The desecration last year of prehistoric artwork at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area sparked outrage and focused attention on the spread of graffiti throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
This week, the 17-year-old youth charged with defacing the Red Rock area received his punishment behind closed doors in federal court, ending a case that rallied the community to help remove the spray-painted graffiti.
U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson on Wednesday sentenced the unidentified youth to nine months behind bars, which he already has served. The judge also placed him on nine months of supervised release and ordered him to pay $23,775 in restitution to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The defaced rock art panels on Aztec sandstone slabs and walls contain pictographs, painted symbols, the BLM estimates are 1,000 years old. One slab has a petroglyph, stone etching, that might be older.
BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said Thursday it cost roughly $24,000 to restore the ancient artwork. All of the money came from private donations.
John Hiatt, president of the Red Rock Audubon Society, which has closely followed the case, said he was pleased to hear about the sentencing.
"It's good that he's getting punished, so other people will see that they can't just damage archaeological resources with impunity," Hiatt said.
"The legal system is starting to recognize that these resources are irreplaceable and, without real protection, we will lose them forever."
In a news release, Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the Nevada U.S. attorney's office, said the youth pleaded guilty to two federal charges: unlawful defacement of archaeological resources and wilfully injuring or committing depredation against property of the United States.
The youth, whose identity has been withheld because he is under 18, committed the acts on July 24 and July 25 of last year.
"Public lands are for everyone's use," Cannon said. "It's disheartening when this happens."
Cannon said the publicity surrounding the crime helped the BLM create more awareness about graffiti in the 198,000-acre Red Rock area, most of which occurs in restrooms and on signs and trash cans.
"We've had more volunteers come out to remove graffiti," she said.
Initially, there was a spike in onlookers at the vandalized site, but that waned as the cleanup efforts began this spring, Cannon said.
Authorities think the defendant is a member of the NHC tagging crew, vandals who paint graffiti together around Southern Nevada.
NHC has several meanings, including Nasty Habits Crew.
The Red Rock graffiti was discovered by hikers in mid-November. It included the street names "PWE," "RODO" and "64C."
Las Vegas police arrested the youth in December, and he was later charged with the federal crimes.
Dawson on Wednesday imposed several special conditions on the youth during his nine-month supervised release, including barring him from entering any national parks, forests or recreational areas.
He also must undergo substance abuse treatment, participate in a life skills program and earn a general equivalency diploma. He cannot possess any firearms or explosives.
Contact Jeff German at or 702-380-8135.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

COMPANY E, 11th OVC, 1864, A Historic Inscription In Wyoming:

Company E, 11th OVC, 1864. Near Douglas,
Wyoming. Photo: Peter Faris, 2001.

On May 26 and 27, 2001, rock art sites were visited and recorded on private land near Douglas, Converse County, Wyoming. One of the sites is a historic-period engraved inscription in a location that is fifty miles east of the location of Fort Caspar, Wyoming.

Line drawing of inscription. Peter Faris.

This panel consists of a historic period inscription on a boulder. The eroded letters spell Co. E, 11-OVC, 1864, and provide a record of the presence in 1864 of Company E of the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

Platte Bridge Station map by Caspar Collins, 1864.

During the American Civil War regular troops were needed for the battlefields back east so their place in Western posts was taken by state volunteer outfits. On May 30, 1862, Companies A, B, C, and D of the First Battalion, 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry reached Fort Laramie, assigned to guard Overland Mail routes across the plains from Julesburg to Green River. Commander of the battalion was Lt. Col. William O. Collins. In early June 1862 the troops moved to a site along the North Platte River and began building a military outpost that became known as the Platte Bridge Station.

Portrait of Caspar Collins, painted by Ruth Joy Hopkins,
facing p.23, J.W. Vaughn, The Battle of Platte Bridge,
Univ. of OK, 1963.
In July 1863, Collins organized a second battalion consisting of Companies E, F, G, and H. It was consolidated with the first battalion to form the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. By October 10 they arrived at their new post at the Platte Bridge Station. Collin’s regiment was 50 men short when he recruited the new companies in 1863 so it was filled out with Confederate prisoners who volunteered for western service in the union cavalry. Men enlisted in this manner were known as “Galvanized Yankees”. The city of Fort Collins, Colorado was named after Lt. Col. Collins. On July 26, 1865, the Battle of Platte Bridge occurred near Platte Bridge Station in Wyoming. Lt. Caspar Collins, the son of Lt. Col Wm. Collins was ordered to lead a troop west of the post to escort a supply train due to arrive from the Sweetwater Station. They were ambushed by Cheyenne warriors and Lieutenant Caspar Collins was killed”. Fort Caspar and the city of Caspar, Wyoming (near the site of the old Platte Bridge Station) were named after him. The present spelling of the city’s name, Casper, is attributed to the U.S. Postal Service which changed it later. The 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry was mustered out on July 14, 1865. Major General John Pope changed the name of Platte Bridge Station to Fort Caspar by special order #49 on November 21, 1865.

Battle of Platte Bridge, drawn by a member of the 11th
Kansas Cav. who participated in the fight of July 25-27,
1865, facing p.102, J.W. Vaughn, The Battle of Platte
Bridge, Univ. of OK, 1963
The site of the inscription on the boulder is approximately 50 miles east of Fort Caspar. It was probably created by troopers from an escort party or a foraging party who had camped by the location for an evening. The soft sandstone boulder is eroding seriously and portions of the lettering are completely gone. As it disappears it takes with it a tangible piece of evidence to the history of the development of Wyoming and the West.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I have written elsewhere about the dangers of relying too much on statistical analysis in drawing conclusions about rock art. I have also written about professional bias among professional archaeologists when it comes to rock art research. In all fairness I must say that this really cuts both ways and the rest of us need to keep an open mind about things as well.

When we have studied some aspect of rock art deeply and have come to some degree of understanding about it we cannot let that become dogma to the extent that we are not willing to consider other possibilities. I can illustrate this with a story. There is a well-known Lakota story about the coming of the buffalo with the appearance of Buffalo Woman. Most versions of it have her appearing to two young warriors and her beauty drives one of the warriors to lust after her. Upon his approaching her there is a sudden appearance of a cloud, concealing them both. The cloud dissipates within a few minutes leaving behind only the skeleton of the lustful young man for his friend to see.

This is usually presented as a punishment for his impiety; he was instantly killed and stripped of all flesh because he insulted the sacred figure of Buffalo Woman. A few months ago, however, I heard another version of this story that almost reverses that assumed meaning. My informant said that the traditional interpretation was wrong, that, in fact, the lustful young man had married Buffalo Woman and their offspring became the buffalo. They had lived a long and full life until his normal death of old age. What his companion had perceived as only an instant until the appearance of the skeleton was sort of like the time rift of science fiction, his companion had lived his whole life in that instant, and it was the other warrior’s perception that was wrong.

While this is at odds with the usual interpretation of the story it is a lovely version and believed by at least a few people for it to have come to my attention. We need to be aware of other possibilities, and always beware of dogma.