Archaeology Terms

Back to all terms

Rock Art Preservation

Exterior rockshelter Vandalism to rock art is a huge problem throughout the world. This irreplaceable art is destroyed by people carving or spray painting modern names, dates, and symbols over or near rock art. While most people would never intentionally damage ancient art, a few unscrupulous individuals will, and it only takes one to destroy these marvelous resources. Even well-meaning visitors can cause destruction. It takes a trained eye to spot the cave’s art. Visitors could inadvertently bump against the cave wall and cause significant damage. Lights could damage the art, and smoke from campfires can contaminate potential carbon dating.

To help protect unique rock art in southwestern Wisconsin’s Tainter cave, a gate was designed by Roy Powers, an engineer affiliated with the American Cave Conservation Association. With input from UW-La Crosse cave expert George Huppert, Powers designed a gate intended to prevent uninvited human access while maintaining natural environmental conditions, such as access for the resident bat population and unrestricted air and moisture flow. Tainter cave before (left) and after (right) gate installation.  Link to images from Tainter cave.