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Know the West

Now you see them ...

  Indian ruins in the Southwest are disappearing, but it's for their own good. Cartographers are wiping famous Anasazi sites off their maps. Due to a hot black market for sacred Indian objects and increased numbers of tourists, ancient cities such as Keet Seel, Awatovi, Hawikuh and Cutthroat Castle will no longer appear on many road maps or in guidebooks. "This is not censorship," archaeologist Roger Whittaker told the Arizona Republic. "This is a last-ditch effort to save the past before we love it to death." Many map publishers say they respect requests from archaeologists or national park officials to remove information if it helps protect ruins. But not everybody agrees with the preservationist trend. Vern Booth, head cartographer for the Arizona Department of Transportation, says, "If it is a point of history, it's not up to us (map makers) to preserve it. Someone else has to do that. I show history." The Automobile Club of Southern California, which has published 26 million maps locating hundreds of prehistoric sites, recently removed the ruins of Awatovi and petroglyphs near Ridgecrest from its maps. The maps also contain warnings against disturbing ancient structures, a violation punishable by fine of up to $20,000 and possible imprisonment. For years, however, the Automobile Club's maps accidentally mislocated the Awatovi site by 25 miles.