Nevada man sentenced to 6 months in prison for damaging rock art

Petroglyphs in Gold Butte National Monument

Today the Department of Justice announced that a Nevada man has been sentenced to 6 months in prison for damaging rock art in Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Michael Shorter (44) pled guilty to a felony violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act for intentionally damaging and removing a petroglyph in the Mud Wash area of the National Monument. You can read details here.

Gold Butte was established as a National Monument in 2016 in part because of its amazing collection of rock art. The 300,000 acre Monument contains petroglyphs that are important to the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Southern Paiute Tribes and other indigenous people of the region. The petroglyphs in Gold Butter are thought to have been made 700 to 1500 years ago.

Mud Wash in Gold Butte National Monument.

In 2019 and 2020, the National Geographic Society spearheaded a project looking at rock art on public lands being studied for reduced protection. The Ancient Art Archive was part of that project. We spent considerable time at Gold Butte National Monument making images of the art (below). After the study, protection for Gold Butte was not reduced, but protection for both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante was initially reduced and then ultimately restored.

These images are part of our effort to preserve and share humanity’s oldest stories.