Mesa Verde National Park is known for well-preserved cliff dwellings that once housed the Pueblo people. But these days, Joseph, Isaiah and Elijah are stealing the spotlight — those are the names park officials recently found scrawled onto a sandstone cliff face.
To add insult to injury, the names were written using prehistoric charcoal, unearthed from an archaeological site elsewhere in the park.
"It's a[n] irreplaceable archeological artifact, it was taken out of context,” says Kristy Brown, spokeswoman for Mesa Verde. “That's something that we'll never be able to retrieve. It's gone."
Joseph, Isaiah and Elijah have company, too. Park rangers have happened upon several instances of vandalism and graffiti. Names and symbols carved or painted on rocks and cliff faces have been found throughout the park in recent days. One vandal even painted the Facebook logo on a rock.
Maybe that social media logo is what inspired park officials to turn to Facebook for solutions. Brown says park officials want to discourage this behavior, but they’re stumped as to why people would destroy priceless artifacts in the first place.
“So we’re trying to get insight from the larger population to see if they can clue us into why people think this is OK,” Brown laughs. She adds that it’s important to engage the public because National Parks ultimately belong to them.
The post has already gotten hundreds of replies from people bemoaning the destruction, but also suggesting restricted access to certain areas, making certain areas accessible only by guided tour (this is already in effect in some parts of the park) or making it mandatory to educate all visitors in leaving no trace.
Brown says park staff is compiling all this feedback, and are exploring which suggestions are practical.