SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The state of Utah is beefing up security at the remote eastern Utah canyon of Range Creek to protect an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 archaeological sites kept secret until last summer.
Archaeologists estimate as many as 250 households occupied the canyon over a span of centuries ending about 750 years ago. They left half-buried stone-and-mortar houses, cob houses and granary caches, and painted colorful trapezoidal figures with spiky hair styles on canyon walls.
Researchers had quietly conducted surveys at the site for three years, but the significance of the finds was hidden until news reports surfaced in June about the transfer of the land from a rancher to the state.
Because the publicity causes a greater risk of looting, the state has allocated $152,000 to secure the site through the end of the fiscal year 2005.
A combination of rangers and conservation officers will provide security for the site, and Division of Wildlife Resources employees will include it in some of their aerial flyovers. The area also is accessible only after miles of rugged road, affording some protection.
"Winter is when most of the vandalism occurs," said Mary Tullius, deputy director of Utah State Parks and Recreation.
State employees will be at Range Creek at least four days a week looking for footprints, tracks or any sign of unauthorized human intrusion into the area.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)