That's the predicament developers for Eagle Mountain Ranch LLC faced when they learned part of their property slated for a residential subdivision contained archaic rock art.
"It is some of the oldest rock art in Utah," Nina Bowen, archivist for the Utah Rock Art Research Association, said in a news release. "Its style is very unique." Knowing the significance of the rock drawings, city officials and developers are making a joint effort to protect it. The most compelling piece at the undisclosed site shows what appears to be three figures holding hands and dancing, said Utah Rock Art Research President Troy Scotter. The Salt Lake Tribune and other news media won't see the art until a Monday news conference.
Scotter said the region boasts quite a bit of rock art - ranging from archaic (2,000 to 6,000 years old) to younger creations by the Fremont people (A.D. 500 to 1300).
He said the dancing-figures petroglyph is likely Fremont art - although more archaic drawings were found at the Eagle Mountain site as well. "Utah has probably the largest concentration of rock art of almost anywhere in the world, certainly in the United States," Scotter said. "But west of Utah Lake is kind of an anomaly," he added. "Why is the rock art over there? Maybe that was a ceremonial site or maybe a site to get sunrise views. It's a good question, and we don't have a very good answer." Members of the the rock art association have known about the Eagle Mountain petroglyphs for at least a decade, Scotter said. Last year, the rock art experts informed city officials and took them to the site. City staffers then passed the word to developers once they started their plans.
Since the petroglyphs in question are on private land, the 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act affords the ancient art no guaranteed protection.
"Private landowners should report what they find to the state, but if [they] want to build a house on top of it, [they're] fine," Scotter said.
Eagle Mountain Ranch LLC is willing to work with city officials to preserve the artifacts.
"We're going to make it a feature of our [project]," developer Larry Franciose said.
A city news release noted the rock art is on land planned for the Oquirrh Heights subdivision, a 182-acre development that will have 477 single-family homes when completed.
The petroglyphs will be incorporated into the 64 acres of open space, parks and trails also planned for the subdivision. Part of that featured treatment could include signs describing the rock art, its source and its history.
Eagle Mountain Mayor Brian Olsen and other city officials now are considering an ordinance that would bring steep fines for vandalism of the art.
"We will do everything we can to protect these amazing sites," Olsen said in a news release. "We are certainly blessed to have such a rich history available to us." firstname.lastname@example.org