Sunday 30 January 2022

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite and Artefact Hunting

"The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail is a bold experiment;
there are no guards or fences here. You, the visitor, are
the protector of this valuable resource. It is illegal to remove,
 deface, or destroy improvements, rocks, and fossils". (BLM)
Brian Engh @BrianEngh_Art

 In the US there is outrage in social media about an incident at Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite (and here) in Utah where about 20%-30% of the site has been damaged mostly from a team from Utah's BLM office driving a mechanical excavator right over these rare fossils to remove a boardwalk on the grounds that it had deteriorated and was a "tripping hazard". The boardwalk was there to protect the site (to stop people walking on it). Instead of repairing (looking after) it, the decision was to rip it up and replace it. They got the boarwalk up but damaged the site that it was originally installed to protect. One wonders what training in monuments care the people engaged in this operation had, and how this work was "supervised"? Presumably, the person responsible for the lack of care and supervision has been identified and fired...

But for all that indignation, and questions ("how can anyone have let this happen?"), of course as a conservation issue, this is no different in any way from what happens in England and Wales with "metal detectorists" that trash archaeological sites and assemblages. It's all condoned and praised as "responsible" because they show a few of the artefacts, leaving a trail of destruction unremarked. What kind of a "conservation" policy is that? Here, the people responsible for the lack of care and supervision are too busy patting artefact hunters on the head to bother about this issue, and as long as they tell the public the same old protective mantaas nothing will change.


Hougenai said...

It reminds me of a local incident where the custodians, Natural England with help from the Wildlife Trust destryoed 200M2 of prehistoric landscape(including a burnt mound) on a local sand dune NNR.

Previously they had been informed of the interest when grubbing out the invasive Rosa rugosa and actually had an evaluation and watching brief. Withinn two years, the same staff used a JCB to dig pools for the rare Natterjack toad, leaving neo/bronze age pottery on the surface.

Not a single one of these alleged sand dune managers, supposed experts, on site when the work was carried out considered 'Hmm,hang on a mo, circular spreads of heat shattered basalt with white quartz pebbles isn't a usual component of a sand dune, let's have a think about this'.

The site has only been known since 1938, is recorded as 'Prehistoric settlememnt' on OS maps, and has about 8-10 papers published in the local society's transactions. More recently, small finds have continued to be recorded by notifying the HER, and in 2002 Evans and Coward excavated evidence of a small structure on an adjacent dune system (Unpublished report National Trust).

Locally, there is currently a project to mechanically strip dune grassland, on several dune systems with the aim to reduce the decline in mobility associated with seral succession. It's a questionable technique that seems to have become fashionable on a national basis. After the previous incident at least a watching brief was put in place, and no consideration given to future exposure of archaeology with this planned mobility.

Whilst there was no legislative protection of the archaeology on many of these sites, you'd have expected that they'd follow through on their stated commitments to the historic environment

( It must be pointed out that NE have suffered terribly from repeated cuts to funding and staffing since the 80's. The time managers have to interact with and learn about their sites is limited. Management is applied more 'by the numbers' than on a site by site basis.)

Hougenai said...

Correction; End of paragraph 5 should read.

After the previous incident at least a watching brief was put in place, although no consideration given to future exposure of archaeology with this planned mobility.

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