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Know the West

Pictures worth 2,000 words

  Q: When is graffiti not graffiti? A: When it's very, very old, perhaps as much as 2,000 years old.

That's the opinion of experts who looked at the sandstone wall of Buckhorn Wash in central Utah. They said the human figures and animals were painted by people called Barrier Canyon Indians, although pioneer settlers, explorers and vandals have since scrawled their names across the ancient artwork. Some have even used spray-paint.

Fed up with the desecration, Emery County officials launched an ambitious project to remove over 100 years of writing and restore the 162-foot-long rock-art panel. Art restorers Richard Wolbers and Constance Silver have been cleaning the rock wall, and their work, along with landscaping and other site improvements, is expected to cost $110,000. The county is raising the money through grants, donations and T-shirt sales.

To discourage future vandalism, the county will erect a new fence and begin site tours and educational programs at area schools.

"If we don't teach people the value and need of protecting these (pictographs) then we've wasted a lot of money," Project chairman Reed Martin says. With the help of volunteers, the restoration should be completed by Sept. 23, when a dedication of the site is scheduled.

For more information contact the Emery County Utah Centennial Commission, P.O. Box 1207, Castle Dale, UT 84513.

*Diane Kelly