PRICE — The leader of a nonprofit archaeology organization says he's baffled by an act of vandalism that was recently discovered in Utah's Nine Mile Canyon.
Jerry D. Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, confirmed Tuesday that members of his group discovered the vandalism at a primitive rock shelter in the canyon on March 16 and reported it to the Bureau of Land Management office in Price.
The vandals buried two wire cables in the floor of the shelter, Spangler said. They also moved delicate archaeological material around inside the shelter to build new walls, according to Ahmed Mohsen, manager of the BLM'S Price field office.
"It's one of the weirdest things I've ever seen," said Spangler, who has more than two decades of experience in the field.
Members of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance first photographed and documented the "big rock shelter" in 2010, but did not excavate it at that time, Spangler said. By moving things inside the shelter and digging into the floor, the vandals have probably done permanent damage to "layers of past human habitation," he said.
"Those are like the pages of a book," Spangler said. "When you disturb the context of artifacts, you put the book out of order."
Spangler doesn't know precisely when the damage was done, but believes the vandalism was "fairly recent."
"It's sad that someone would chose to make this their own little playground," he said, adding that rock shelters often provide archaeologists with an opportunity to study "thousands of years of human history in one place."
A BLM law enforcement ranger has been assigned to the case, Mohsen said. Anyone with information about the vandalism are enouraged to call the bureau's Price office at 435-636-3600.
"It's going to be an uphill battle, since we don't know exactly when the vandalism occurred," Spangler said.