The preserved cultural record in Keyhole Sink in northern Arizona's Kaibab National Forest contained etchings depicting people, animals and a blazing sun -- an archaeological treasure which was defaced when someone painted "ACE" on top of the glyphs in sloppy, dripping lettering, The Arizona Republic reported Sunday.
"It's beyond words," Kaibab archaeologist Neil Weintraub said of the damage. "It feels like an attack on this site. What has it done except give people pleasure for years?"
There is an ongoing attack on ancient archaeological sites in Arizona and across the Southwest, the newspaper said. They are defaced with paint, bullet marks, paintball stains and messages scratched into rocks.
Professional thieves remove pottery, hack out chunks of ancient art-covered rock and dislodge anything they can carry away, the newspaper said.
The sites are vulnerable and operated on the, apparently erroneous, assumption people are decent and won't indulge in the kind of behavior going on, officials said.
"We can't monitor them all, and neither can the land managers," said Nicole Armstrong-Best, interim coordinator for Arizona's Site Stewards program which oversees a group of 800 volunteers who monitor about 3,000 of the most significant sites in the program, the Republic reported.
"It hurts us emotionally, because this is just such a special place," Margaret Hangan, Kaibab National Forest's heritage-program manager said. "It's really hard to see that not everybody feels the same way we do about it."