“We’re always concerned about people publishing guides to archaeology sites, and to rock art sites in particular,” says Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Pat Barker. “The problem is, that kind of thing’s protected by First Amendment free-speech rights. We’ve tried to convince people not to do that, but our hands are tied in terms of doing anything about it, because they can publish anything they want. If the site is well-known and getting high visitation, we strive to try to interpret it and manage it, but we don’t reveal locations of sites that aren’t being heavily [traveled]. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act gives us the opportunity to withhold that information, [which] is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. You can’t get it that way, so we’re very confident and very strong in our legal ability to protect that information.”
Free speech could be the cloak covering the collective ass of all those Internet entities that provide specific archaeological site information and locations, freely accessed on search engines. A representative of the media relations office at Yahoo! was unfamiliar with the word “petroglyphs” and unaware of the issues surrounding publication of ancient Native rock art sites. Indeed, the representative seemed unaware that the Internet is a frequent source reporters turn to in the course of conducting research.
When asked to comment on why potential vandals can find maps and directions to rock art sites on the Yahoo! search engine, the mega dot-com’s official response was, “No comment.”