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Graffiti Defaces 4,000-Year-Old Marker

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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Preservationists and paint specialists are working to remove graffiti newly spray-painted on a Bronze Age-era national archaeological site in Wales.

Vandals took the paint to the 4,000-year-old Maen Llia standing stone, a Scheduled Ancient Monument in Brecon Beacons National Park. (Scheduled monuments in the UK are protected by the government and have been deemed of national historical significance.)

Maen Llia graffiti

Authorities aren't smiling over graffiti sprayed on a 4,000-year-old monument in Brecon Beacons National Park. Removing the paint will be a painstaking job.

The monument is located in Brecon Beacons National Park. The damage—a smiley face spray-painted over the stone, which stands 3.7 meters, or just over 12 feet—was discovered last week. Police are investigating, and historians are outraged.

'Irreversible Damage'

“Criminal acts like this can cause irreversible damage," Natalie Ward, Heritage Officer for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, said in a Park Authority announcement.

“The heritage of the National Park is the legacy left to us by our ancestors, and it contains a wealth of information about past peoples and their lives. The person who did this may well think it was harmless fun, but archaeological sites like Maen Llia are fragile and causing damage to a Scheduled Ancient Monument is a criminal offense."

Added Martin Buckle, the Authority's Member Champion for Heritage: “The vandalism that has occurred to Maen Llia standing stone cannot be condoned. You could compare it with spraying graffiti on a castle.

"It may be, however, that the perpetrator did not understand the site’s importance. We hope that by highlighting this issue, we can raise awareness of our ancient monuments and help protect them.”

Repairing the Damage

While authorities seek the culprits, the priority is the highly delicate task of repairing the damage.

Maen Llia

John Harding's gazetteer, Megalithica, says the stone has been defaced before.

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority is currently working with Cadw, the Welsh government’s historic environment service, and landowners to arrange for the graffiti to be sensitively removed.

"Removal of the offending substance will be a slow and careful process undertaken by professionals who may have to use on-site trials to assess the most appropriate methods and materials to remove the substance," the Park Authority reported.

About the Monument

Maen Llia is considered the most impressive of about 30 ancient standing stones in Brecon Beacons National Park.

The stone is the tallest—and, at an altitude of 1,880 feet, the highest—in the park. Its height and altitude suggest that it may have originally been important as a territorial marker, authorities said.

Historians believe the stone was erected in the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, between 2500 and 1800 BC.

"Made from a massive sandstone block..., the task of moving and erecting it must have been a huge challenge, especially as it is likely that a quarter to a third of the whole stone is below ground," the Park Authority reports.

Unfortunately, Maen Llia's brush with vandals was not its first, reports an online gazetteer called Megalithica, which tracks ancient sites in South Wales and elsewhere in the UK. Some of the stone's graffiti dates to the 19th century, verging on the historical itself.

A Season of Damage

It's been a tough season for archaeological treasures. In May, a Mexican construction crew destroyed an ancient Mayan pyramid to get road fill for a project. The pyramid, which once stood 100 feet tall, was leveled.

The same month, a Chinese teenager defaced a 3,500-year-old tablet at Egypt's Temple of Luxor.


Tagged categories: Graffiti; Graffiti removal; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures

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