This question was recently closed as off topic:

How to get rid of illegal artificial paints on historical monuments?.

Fine I don't really have any issues with that. But, for clarity's sake and to help shape the site moving forward, I'm wondering what are we trying to say is off topic here.

Are we saying that Archaeology questions are off topic, the maintenance of buildings, what exactly?

This site has received some criticism for having quite a wide scope in the past. Again I don't necessarily agree or disagree with this but I do feel that it may be time to start defining our (this includes you reading this!) scope a little bit better and having some of these conversations.

My aim for this question is if a similar question comes up in the future we can point at this meta post and say "this is on/off topic, see here"

  • I don't think its about cleaning or maintaining a building, its rather pointed towards preservation/restoration of a surface of a "monument" where apparently the word monuments includes some natural formation and not just artifacts... if it was just about restoring a statue or something like that then there's little reason to have it in TGO but he says Caves so.... Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 20:47
  • What about migrating it to: earthscience.stackexchange.com ? Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 20:59

6 Answers 6


I think it is in scope, at least as far as the part asking about cleaning cave walls. Cleaning man made walls is probably out of scope as suggested by OddDeer.

stupid people painting their names on the walls of the caves

Cave walls are natural entities, keep them free of human trace is the same as anything else outside.

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    I don't think that ruining a cave wall should be considered differently from building cairns with no reason just because a marker might be involved in writing on a rock Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 16:11
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    @ErikvanDoren I personally consider building a 5 stone cairn a significantly lesser offense than writing "E <3 E" next to a petroglyph. The cairn is worthless but it is trivially fixed/restored. Graffiti on a cave wall is much harder to remedy. However if your point was that restoration work should be on topic then I agree in the general sense, but I'm not confident where the line should be drawn. (no pun intended)
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 13:08
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    @Erik, i meant that as just principle, I found odd how everyone seemed to have a strong reaction to a cairn "not belonging there" but yet when this issue came up the reaction was pretty much "should go in housekeeping/cleaning". I don't know where the line could go, other parts of SE would close a question just because of a wrong word, I hope OTG would not arrive to that point Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 16:28

For me it was the thing, that it didn't really was something which had to do anything directly with Archaeology. Basically you can say that it comes down to

How to remove [a more or less specific] paint from a [more or less specific] stone wall.

Imho it reads like a question belonging to a SE community for professional cleaners (biohazard remediation etc.).

So, to address your question, I would say "It's off-topic to ask about professional cleaning on TGO."

To make my train of thought clear, I want to give an easier analogy:

I was in the forest and a bird 'hit' ;) me on my flannel shirt (...) Have you known of trusted/proven ways to remove bird-feaces from a flannel surface without damaging it?

Tags: (...)

In the end this question doesn't have to do anything with hunting even though it may resulted out of a hunting adventure. It also just comes down to "How to clean my shirt?"

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    Someone could say that being able to be in the outdoors and not end looking like a savage is part of outdoorsmanship and that cleaning bird poop in the outdoors might be one of the skills required ;) I could see comments asking details on location, season, kind of bird, water sources availability and... if there's giardia in the water ;) On a more serious note, if someone asked how to get fish stink off their shirt I believe the reaction could be to accept it. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 16:20
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    @ErikvanDoren There's a big difference between fish stink and bird poo because fish stink is closely related to fishing whereas bird poo can hit you even if you open up the cage of your pet-bird. An example for hunting would be "how to clean bloody hands?". That's okay, because it's closely related to hunting and may help other hunters. You don't generally help other Archaeologists with the stated question.
    – OddDeer
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 17:15

I feel that with a bit of rewording it would fit nicely, what threw me off was all the background information that wasn't, in itself, related to TGO. I understand the desire to make people understand the whole situation but maybe a more direct question about maintaining the caves would have the kind of replies the OP is looking for without too many offtopic problems. After all How to “hide” text so that it can't be vandalized but without damaging any public property? was answered and upvoted without too much discussion.

Now, that there could be an actual useful answer or not is another subject.

Are we saying that "whats the best way to chop down a forest" could fit but "how to preserve petroglyphs on my canoe route" wont?


I understand OddDeer's point " it reads like a question belonging to a SE community for professional cleaners (biohazard remediation etc". Only problem -- there isn't such an SE site.

Finding a site at a high professional level devoted to conservation and repair of natural formations and monuments would be a contribution; maybe if this question were reopened, a user would find such a site, or someone would know someone who knows the right person.

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    DIY and lifehacks would be both potential homes for questions about cleaning buildings. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 18:27

Coming a bit late, but since I answered the question, I figured I'd post why.

I used to work as a field biologist at large park. Part of the job was participating in general cleanup of sites. Most often it was just high use areas where people would spray paint, leave trash, and damage stuff. Sometimes it was at culturally or historically significant areas. The only difference with the historically significant areas was that we worked with an archaeologist on the clean-up team, and you needed to be aware of what not to damage. So I consider paint removal to be just another part of clean-up, and just as much on topic as a discussion about how to get people to pick up their own trash on a trail. Because of my experience, I know that in many cases, the only difference between a historical site and a less culturally significant site is the amount of caution needed to avoid damage, which is why half my answer is about when to not do anything and how to be careful. And since caves are specifically mentioned, the question is not exclusively about man-made buildings.

If there was an archeology site, or any site that focused on historical preservation, it would be a better fit than outdoors SE. But there isn't, and since the answer is very similar to what I'd use for a general outdoor paint clean-up question, I have no problem with the question.


The most important point in my decision was mentioned by @OddDeer: It sounded specific to the restoration of (natural or man-made) monuments, which generally isn't an activity one associates with outdoor life/sports. Regardless of the (in)competence of the respective authorities.

In retrospect, I'm not sure whether another point was aproppriate: I think this job is best left to professionals, i.e. experienced people who actually know what they are doing. From the expression "historically important surface", I got the impression that the surfaces were really fragile (My close vote came before the edit that added Basalt as the rock type. Which is REALLY hard to damage...). I wouldn't want people to read the answer and then decide to set out and clean some rocks, and by accident damaging e.g. cave paintings or just fragile rock (like sandstone) due to their inexperience. I hope people follow the warning in the beginning of the answer...

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