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Selfish Graffiti: Vandals Wreck Treasured Mesa Verde Artifacts

mesa verde national park grafitti
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Vandals permanently damaged sandstone walls and destroyed archeological artifacts in the process of inscribing their names in Mesa Verde National Park.


Names written on sandstone walls, prehistoric charcoal dug up and destroyed, rock cairns pointlessly strewn across the desert: Mesa Verde sees its fair share of vandalism.

On June 20th, 2017, Mesa Verde National Park experienced its latest vandalism. (We know the exact date because David and Edith let the world know on 6/20/17 that they clearly love each other.)

Located in southwest Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park contains wall paintings dating to 2500 BC and entire buildings from 1200 AD. It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sees 580,000 visitors per year.

The visitors jerks dug up prehistoric charcoal along the Petroglyph Point trail. They then used it to inscribe their names on the sandstone face nearby. This not only destroyed the archeological artifact, but also taints the experience for future visitors.

Mesa Verde National Park posted the extent of vandalism to Facebook, painted rocks and cairns included.

Destruction, Grafitti: Mesa Verde National Park

“As the summer progresses and visitation increases, we are seeing more and more evidence of graffiti, vandalization, and intentional littering throughout Mesa Verde National Park.” The park wrote on its Facebook page.

The park also noted a scavenger hunt phenomena occurring on park grounds. Visitors paint rocks for people to find, along with a Facebook hashtag to search. The paint, glitter, and other modes of inscription can melt off and leak onto the surrounding areas in the hot desert sun, the Park wrote.

The national park raised the question, “Why do you think people do this?” A good question indeed. Vandalism and love messages are certainly not recent phenomena in beautiful places. Who hasn’t seen a beautiful birch tree inscribed with initials and hearts?

In 2013, visitors to Goblin Valley pushed over delicate rock structures. In 2015, we covered the NPS’s report of the most graffitied National Parks. Locations near urban centers racked in the most incidents. Lake Mead had a staggering 198 graffiti citations since 2013.

Mesa Verde’s full Facebook post, below, shows the damage of recent graffiti.

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