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Groups take action in wake of ancient-art theft

November 26, 2012

The Bishop tribe and BLM are each offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association has set up a similar fund to help bring the perpetrator(s) to justice. Photos courtesy Greg Haverstock/Bureau of Land Management

As federal land managers continue investigating the theft of several priceless, Native American artifacts from an area north of Bishop, residents have an opportunity to help protect culturally sensitive sites in the future and possibly even help capture those responsible for the recent crimes.
The Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association announced it is accepting donations that can be used for a number of projects, from ongoing monitoring to apprehending the thieves who used rock saws and pry bars to steal several prehistoric works of art from the Volcanic Tablelands north of Bishop.
The damage and thefts were reported to the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the property where the petroglyphs are located, on Oct. 31 when a trained, volunteer steward was on a routine patrol.
When officials went to investigate, they found that several panels of rock containing art work that could be as much as 10,000 years old were missing. The thief or thieves also destroyed several pieces while attempting to steal them and damaged others in the process.
The perpetrators removed or damaged rock art at five locations within the site.
The site is protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. ESIA said it is one of the most significant rock art sites in the region and is still used by the local Paiute for ceremony.
“The panels that were taken are irreplaceable,” said Bernadette Lovato, BLM Bishop Field Office manager. “Our top priority is to recover them intact.”
Greg Haverstock, Bishop Field Office archaeologist, said, “the damaged site was a pristine example of Great Basin rock art and hunter-gatherer domestic, religious and subsistence activities. The location of archaeological materials, feature remains and the rock art clearly portray the activities that occurred at the site during the past 3,500 years.”
ESIA is accepting donations for four different funds: the petroglyph vandalism reward fund; interpretive opportunities (to show how the damage has affected the overall panel); adopt-a-camera for continued site monitoring/surveillance; and archeological site stewardship training and volunteer opportunities.
The BLM Bishop Field Office and the Bishop Tribe are offering $2,000 in reward money – $1,000 each – for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the responsible individuals who damaged petroglyph panels.
Convictions on Archaeological Resources Protection Act violations can result in fines and/or prison terms, according to ESIA. In addition, the law provides for civil fines, either in conjunction with or independent of any criminal prosecution, and forfeiture of vehicles and equipment used in the violation of the statute.
Anyone with information can contact Melody Stehwien at (760) 937-0301, or Eric Keefer at (760) 937-0657, both in the BLM Bishop Field Office.
Donations for ESIA’s funds may be mailed to the association at 190 E. Yaney St., Bishop, CA 93514. Those interested in donating should specify which of the four projects to which they would like to contribute.
For more information, call ESIA at (760) 873-2411 during normal business hours.

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