LOS ANGELES, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Four petroglyphs carved into
volcanic rock more than 3,500 years ago have been hacked out and
stolen by thieves who also damaged other engravings at a
historic site in California, U.S. authorities said on Tuesday.
The petroglyphs in the Volcanic Tablelands east of Yosemite
represented a "pristine example of Great Basin rock art" that
portrayed the daily hunter-gatherer activities that took place
in the area, the Bureau of Land Management said.
"The individuals who did this have destroyed an
irreplaceable part of our national cultural heritage,"
Bernadette Lovato, Bureau of Land Management field office
manager, said in a statement.
"We have increased surveillance of our sites and are working
with other agencies to bring the responsible parties to justice
and to recover the petroglyphs," Lovato said.
It was not immediately clear when the petroglyphs, or rock
engravings, were removed from the site near California's border
with Nevada. A volunteer monitor first spotted the damage on
Oct. 31, bureau spokesman David Christy said.
"This is terrible. This place is on the National Register of
Historic Places," Christy told Reuters. "Among the rock art
community, it's known as one of the outstanding examples of rock
Christy said the thieves would have needed ladders, concrete
cutting saws and power generators to cut out the petroglyphs -
not a fast or easy job.
"This wasn't casual, somebody walking around picking up
arrowheads. This was a serious effort," he said.
No suspects have been identified so far. Christy said the
petroglyphs had not yet surfaced on the black market for stolen
The Volcanic Tablelands are described by the Bureau of Land
Management as a vast volcanic landscape formed more than 700,000
years ago by materials spewing from the Long Valley caldera to
The high-desert site and its volcanic rock outcroppings are
listed in the National Register of Historic Places, protected
under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and still used
by local Paiute Indians for ceremonies.
"The location of archaeological materials, feature remains
and the rock art clearly portray the activities that occurred at
the site during the last 3,500 years," Greg Haverstock, an
archaeologist for the Bureau of Land Management's field office
in Bishop, California, said in a statement.
The Bureau of Land Management has offered a $1,000 reward
for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the
people responsible for the theft.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, first-time
violators of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act can be
imprisoned up to one year and fined $20,000.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and