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Ethics of Describing Anasazi Sites

Some may criticize me for providing specific information about the location of Anasazi ruins and artifacts. Someone reading this could run down and fill their pockets full of shards. (They probably won’t try to haul out the metate — it’s rather heavy.) Looters have been a problem in the past and law enforcement agencies aggressively prosecute individuals involved in that crime.

As I’ve talked with rangers and archaeologists, I’ve learned that the looters no longer pose the major threat to our Anasazi treasures. The threat now comes from enthusiasts — from people loving them to death. Some well-meaning individuals can’t resist climbing on ancient rock walls to get that perfect photo. Others arrange (cluster) shards for photos, or put paper against petroglyphs to make tracings or rubbings.

Pottery shards have been clustered by admirers in many spots. That's sad because moving shards makes it more difficult for archaeologist to read the story the ruins tell. Moving the artifacts is much like tearing out and scattering pages from a book. Even if you find all the pages, you've lost the continuity and it takes much more effort to understand the story.

Some fear these wilderness treasures will be lost within the next couple decades. Relics that survived nature’s furry for a thousand years, which survived the looters and vandals, are now being destroyed by well-meaning enthusiasts who can’t resist touching them or moving them...

Education is the only answer. People will learn about these treasures, from this article or some other source. Hopefully, they will also learn about ethics. They will help family members and Boy Scout troops learn to enjoy these areas in a responsible way.