Code of Ethics

Rock art sites are sacred sites


Numerous web pages clearly show that often visitors to rock art sites are not aware of the enormous religious and cultural value of the images, the rocks and the rock art site. In many cases people just uncritically touch, walk over or lie on rock art images. I would like to ask the people who created those web pages to remove all those photos and to include a code of ethics into their web pages, so that further damage and disrespectful behaviour will be avoided.

Rock art is vulnerable

Always protect and respect the images and the site! But most importantly, rock art is the legacy of ancient civilisations and many or perhaps all rock art sites are religious, sacred sites and valuable for those civilisations and their ancestors: respect the rock art, the rock and its environment! I especially ask local people and tourists to obey the following code of ethics when visiting an archaeological site, with or without rock art. That such a code of ethics is truly necessary is demonstrated by (too!) many instances of damaged and vandalized rock art sites. (The Spanish remarks below have been taken from the APAR web site - see Introduction).

NEVER touch or wet rock art. Keep a respectful distance! Siempre observa el arte rupestre desde una distancia prudencial! Touching rock art is highly damaging (and disrespectful), especially to rock paintings. Even stirring up dust from a shelter floor which would settle on the art is damaging. Also tracings and rubbings can and do much damage. Therefrore, never make rubbings.

Do NOT walk and/or climb on rocks bearing rock art. Keep a respectful distance! If avoiding walking on a rock art panel is really impossible and it is truly 'necessary' to walk on the rock surface, please take off your shoes, walk on your socks and avoid the images and fragile rock! But first and foremost: please stay away from the rock surface!

Leave all archaeological artifacts as they are. Please, do take photographs of newly discovered archaeological remains and inform the local archaeological institutes, but leave all artifacts (ceramics for instance or stones of a structure) as they are and do not touch them (except when your action protects an item). No se debe levantar colectar o coleccionar cualquier material cultural asociado a los sitios de arte rupestre, sean estos cerámica, lítico, hueso, o cualquier otro material similar.

Only take photographs; only leave your footsteps. This means that every visitor to any site should take home all the litter that he or she produced during their visit to the site. No se debe dejar en el área nada extraño al entorno y el sitio de arte rupestre, esto incluye ofrendas, pagos, monedas, basura, etc. No se debe alterar de ninguna forma el entorno, en el cual el arte rupestre esta inscrito. No se debe remover el suelo, hacer fogatas, campamentos, construcciones, etc., en zonas cercanas a los sitios con arte rupestre.

It is a shame to see how much rubbish and how many empty plastic water bottles are scattered throughout a large and relatively much visited rock art site like Toro Muerto, Peru. I myself recorded rock art in the study area only through naked eye observations and by making as many photographs as possible, and - at home - by using several computer programs to enhance the photos of the images. Most of the photographs in my web pages have slightly been enhanced (contrast and so on). However, if photographs in my web pages or publications have been seriously enhanced or changed, this will be clearly stated in the caption or text.

NEVER chalk or enhance rock art by touching the images in any possible way. Unfortunately, chalking and scratching of petroglyphs in order to enhance images still occurs. For instance, several images at Rosario in the extreme north of Chile have been scratched (possibly with a metal object), probably to make them 'better visible'. No debe intervenirse físicamente el arte rupestre en ninguna forma. No debe tocarse, pintarse, rasparse, tizarse, mojarse, escalarse, etc.

More disturbing is the following situation. The work about the petroglyphs of Pitis and Cantas in the Majes Valley of Peru by Paúl Jofrey Álvarez Zeballos (2009: ) clearly shows that several images have been enhanced by chalking (especially Fig. 8 in the Cantas section). 'Archaeologist' Paúl Álvarez even writes: Todas estas imagines se encuentran semi-borradas y para resaltar su imagen se las repaso con tiza alcalina o básica, which translates as: All these images prove to be weathered and to emphasise the image I use chalk. To me it is unthinkable and completely unacceptable that a contemporary archaeologist uses chalk to emphasise a rock art image. Such damaging practices must be strongly disapproved of! Contributions to Rock Art Research that include photographs of rock art that were obtained by physical enhancement or other interference will be categorically rejected by the editor of this excellent Journal.