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Tue May 4, 2021, 01:24 AM

Racist Phrase Found Etched on Native American Petroglyphs in Utah

Unidentified criminals wrote “white power” and obscenities over thousand-year-old Indigenous markings on “Birthing Rock” in Moab

A panel of the "Birthing Rock" petroglyphs in Moab, Utah, prior to its defacement with racist and obscene etchings (I.M. Stile via Flickr under CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Lila Thulin
APRIL 30, 2021

Long before the establishment of Utah’s tourist-magnet Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Native American groups such as the Ancestral Puebloans, Fremont and Utes lived in and passed through the area, adorning its red sandstone with pictographs and petroglyphs. In the mere 15 percent of the region they’ve formally documented, archaeologists have identified hundreds of rock art sites.

After enduring for about a millennium, report Saige Miller and Colby Walker for KSL NewsRadio, a four-panel collection of petroglyphs known as the “Birthing Rock” was damaged earlier this week, when vandals scrawled a white supremacist phrase and other obscene graffiti on it.

Birthing Rock, also known as the “Birthing Scene,” is a boulder off of a popular recreational road outside of the city of Moab, notes Zak Podmore for the Salt Lake Tribune. Petroglyphs—images that are scratched or otherwise carved into rock, as opposed to painted pictographs—adorn its four sides.

According to an interpretive sign at the site, images inscribed on the rock include a woman giving birth, anthropomorphic figures, bear tracks, centipedes and bighorn sheep, as well as abstract designs. Dating petroglyphs is difficult, but archaeologists estimate that they were etched by the region’s Indigenous inhabitants between 700 and 2,500 years ago.

Late Sunday or early Monday, vandals wrote “white power” across Birthing Rock’s triangle-shaped anthropomorphic figures, misspelling and crossing out their first attempt at the word “white,” reports Spencer Joseph for Fox 13. Someone drew an ejaculating penis above a snakelike line and scribbled sexual vulgarities on the rock. A scratched-on slang term for women’s genitals now appears on a section with depictions of four-legged creatures and circular designs. Per KSL.com’s Carter Williams, only one panel escaped unscathed.


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