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Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 911–952 | Cite as

Assessing the Stability and Sustainability of Rock Art Sites: Insight from Southwestern Arizona

  • Aaron M. WrightEmail author
Article

Abstract

In light of global trends in human population growth and urbanization, burgeoning cultural heritage tourism industries, and climate change, cultural heritage places in nearly every corner of the world are significantly threatened, and will remain so into the foreseeable future. Rock art sites are some of the most imperiled, with their exposed contexts posing unique challenges to conservation. Consequently, effective management of publically accessible rock art sites necessitates a sustainable approach that weighs visitation in regard to cultural significance and site stability. This essay integrates rock art stability and sustainability assessment methodologies at the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site in southwestern Arizona. The study specifically applies the Rock Art Stability Index (RASI) to evaluate the natural and anthropogenic weathering forces impacting the site, and the Heritage Asset Sensitivity Gauge (HASG) to assess site sustainability under existing management practices in relation to current and forecasted rates of visitation. A spatial analysis of aggregated RASI data shows that visitor foot traffic has had some of the most profound impacts to the petroglyphs. Unrestricted access to the site area is also highly correlated with the presence and location of vandalism and graffiti, and visitor-related trampling has adversely affected the site’s surface artifact assemblage. Application of the HASG projects that, while existing management practices are fairly sustainable, they become less so under forecasted increases in visitation. Further, the HASG appraises the site’s cultural significance as outweighing its market appeal, indicating management efforts should prioritize conservation over tourism-related development.

Keywords

Rock art Sustainability Stability Condition assessment Weathering Conservation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was sponsored by the Conservation Lands Foundation and supported by charitable contributions from private donors to Archaeology Southwest. The field team consisted of the author, Jaye Smith, Kirk Astroth, Fran Maiuri, Carl Evertsbusch, and Lance Trask. Mr. Trask also kindly provided several of the photographs in this article, and Niccole Cerveny, from Mesa Community College, trained the field team in the Rock Art Stability Index. This project benefited from the cooperation of several institutions and their staff, most notably Cheryl Blanchard of the Bureau of Land Management’s Lower Sonoran Field Office in Phoenix. Kim Beckwith, Registrar with the National Park Service’s Western Archaeological Conservation Center, arranged access to the artifacts from Al Schroeder’s 1952 survey. Three anonymous reviewers and a proofreading by Katherine Cerino improved the quality and presentation of this manuscript. While grateful to all of these individuals and organizations for their support and encouragement, the author takes full responsibility for this article’s content and any shortcomings or errors therein.

Funding

This study was funded by the Conservation Lands Foundation and Archaeology Southwest.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author has received research grants from The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society, and he has received a speaker honorarium from the Arizona Archaeological Society and the Southern Nevada Rock Art Research Association.

Supplementary material

10816_2017_9363_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (44 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 44 kb)
10816_2017_9363_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (120 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 119 kb)

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Archaeology SouthwestTucsonUSA

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