This image shows where a drill was reportedly used to destroy carvings that were once on the Glenwood Erratic.

Aboriginal Petroglyphs Destroyed By Vandals Armed With Acid and a Drill


A rock drill, acid and a power washer; it’s not the beginning of a joke about a hardware store—it’s what was used by cultural vandals to destroy aboriginal pictograms and petroglyphs on a boulder in Alberta, Canada.

The damage was discovered when historian Stan Knowlton, Piikani First Nation, went to photograph and test the markings on the Glenwood Erratic near Pincher Creek in southern Alberta on September 9.

“It seems a little coincidental that the night before I was planning to go in with a high definition camera to record the markings, someone in a truck brings in a generator or compressor, a large hammer drill, maybe lights and a ladder and decimates the very thing I was hoping to preserve,” Knowlton said a report, titled “Desecration of Glenwood Erratic,” which the Pincher Creek Voice published with its story.

Knowlton pointed out in his report that this is just the latest in a string of vandalized pictogram and petroglyph sites in Alberta and thinks someone is out to destroy evidence that could prove the Blackfoot First Nations had a written language before European migration.

“I suspect the link to this destruction is to nullify my long held claim that the Blackfoot had a written language before missionaries arrived, which could force archeologists to rewrite history,” Knowlton wrote in his report.

The writings on the erratic—a rock that differs in size and shape from the rock surrounding it, having been transported from its place of origin by glacial action—were highlighted and preserved using red ochre.

“Blackfoot/Cree Blackfoot is the older version of syllabic writing,” he told the Pincher Creek Voice. “This glacial erratic was dropped here about 10,000 years ago. It’s hard to date the writings. It would have been possible to carbon date the oils in the red ochre.” With the ochre washed away, Knowlton may not be able to date it at all.

Knowlton said the use of the red ochre is what tipped him off that the rock had at one time been a sacred site for ceremonies. He explained to the National Post how about five years ago he oversaw tobacco ceremonies and other rites to prepare for his thorough examination of the symbols in a culturally sensitive way.

When the lichen covering the symbols on the top of the erratic started to come off after summer, Knowlton knew that it was time to start his examination.

But when he climbed his ladder to scale the 16-foot vertical rock, the subject of his study had been wiped away in the night.

Glenwood Erratic Discoloration

“To my absolute horror, I could see what kind of damage had been done,” he told the National Post. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

The vandals used a truck to get to the rock—Knowlton saw the tire tracks as he arrived on September 9—and he suspects they used a power washer to remove the lichen covering the symbols before spraying acid on the paintings and drilling away the carvings with a rock bore or hammer drill.

“We have been violated, future generations have been robbed and the world has been deprived of the ancient knowledge contained within these artifacts,” Knowlton wrote in his report. “This urgent matter must follow a formal plan of action at all levels.”

Knowlton said in his report that very few people knew there was writing on the top of the erratic since the lichen covering it was so thick.

“Unfortunately, the culprit’s drill bit has now reduced the artifacts to dust. What the wind and rain could not wash or blow away is now a painful memory,” Knowlton said in his report. “The objective was total destruction and as the culprit had to carry a large hammer drill up a 16-foot ladder at night, this was a deliberate act to erase history and definitely not accidental.”

Related article:

Alberta Mounties Will Investigate Aboriginal Petroglyph Damage

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kickapoocandy's picture
Submitted by kickapoocandy on
I wonder if there was any criminal investigation done and evidence collected in order to catch the criminals??? Or just another unimportant crime against Native American culture in a Country who wants them to go away. Was a reward offered in local papers? These types often brag about their deeds to others who may not share their view and may turn them in for it. So, what is being done? Kickapoocandy

maryhill's picture
Submitted by maryhill on
it's not that I like this article but the fact that we now know what is happening.

49indian's picture
Submitted by 49indian on
They don't care about us, never have and never will. We need to gaurd these priceless and sacred sites and we need to deal with the little f**kers and deal with them our way. Enough is Enough

soundstep's picture
Submitted by soundstep on
No picture of the original Petroglyph in Alberta before the desecration? guess I'll have to google National Geographic to get the 'before' picture.

anitanaimi's picture
Submitted by anitanaimi on
Intolerant fundamentalism and racial supremacy does not exist only with the Taliban destroying those ancient Buddhist sculptures. Very sad, very pathetic.

gsevalikova's picture
Submitted by gsevalikova on
This is one situation where cameras that provide audio and video can help to nab the vandals who do these things. Some are wireless,too, like one called "uview" that I keep hearing on the Leo La Port show( Sundays on KFI 640 AM (

gsevalikova's picture
Submitted by gsevalikova on
Here is the correct name for the cameras : vuezone/com. It's from NETGEAR, and the radio station is where i heard of this. And if one puts Leo 75 in the offer button they get $75 off the price, so maybe the people watching for vandals can use it.( I wrote the info wrong some days ago-sorry,my bad!)

majorkarma's picture
Submitted by majorkarma on
This should serve as a harsh lesson to keep your mouths shut, at least until you have secured your documentation and in this case, the site. There are evil people in this world, both individuals, religious and governments and if you have not woke up to this yet, you are an idiot and as is the case here, naive. Too bad about the destruction but if the persons involved feel any responsibility for exposing this site to vandals, they should now make it their quest to find the vandals and deal with them.