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Petroglyphs Losing Ground to Time, Trash, and Graffiti

​ASOTIN, Washington –"Devo Rules" at Buffalo Eddy.

Or so says a message spray-painted on rocks across the road from Indian petroglyphs perhaps several thousand years old. The reference to the music group Devo is apparently of more recent origin.

The Snake River site 14 miles south of Asotin offers glimpses into two cultures: the petroglyphs left behind by prehistoric peoples and the graffiti deposited by 20th century visitors.

Most of the petroglyphs pecked into rocks along the river bank are faint now. In spite of centuries of weathering from wind, water, ice and lichens, they still tell how ancestors of the Nez Perce Tribe survived there.

Many figures at Buffalo Eddy, which is located on both the Idaho and Washington sides of the Snake and nearby at Captain John Rock, are animals that had been hunted for food: elk, fish and, especially, bighorn sheep. Petroglyphs depict human figures in various hunting activities.

Modern man finds food in other ways and has left his ownmarks on the site, such as the processed-meat package in the grass not far from Snake River Road. "Carl Buddig Ham-Smoked-Sliced-Chopped-Pressed-Cooked."

The "pack-it-in, pack-it-out" rule apparently doesn't apply at Buffalo Eddy, where visitors have used natural depressions in the rocks as ashtrays. Litter scattered along the roadway and dropped among the rocks includes diapers, hopelessly tangled fishing lines, a wooden pallet stenciled "White Flyer," an Idaho boat-trailer license, plastic foam burger packaging and a glow-in-the-dark-green coat hanger.