Ancient petroglyph panels stolen from a cultural site north of Bishop last fall
were recovered this week
by the Bureau of Land Management.
Investigators are still looking for the thieves, meanwhile, and continue to ask for the public’s help.
BLM Archaeologist Greg Haverstock said the stolen artifacts were recovered as the result of “information provided by an anonymous tip.”
Because authorities are still seeking those responsible for the theft and associated vandalism, the BLM is keeping the details about how it recovered the ancient rock art under wraps at this time.
“Recovery of the petroglyphs was a priority from day one,” BLM Field Office Manager Bernadette Lovato said via press release. “Now we need the public’s help to identify the vandals responsible for damaging the site.”
Reward funds from the BLM, Bishop Paiute Tribe and an online group calling itself “Raise the Bounty: Climbers Against the Bishop Petroglyph Theft,” have raised a total of $9,000 to be offered as a reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.
“It is important to remember that the reward is for the successful prosecution, so there will be no reward for this tip,” Haverstock said.
The thefts and damage were reported Oct. 31 when a member of a local Archeological Preservation Resource Group, a volunteer group of citizens who have been trained to watch for theft and vandalism at culturally sensitive sites, made a routine check of the area.
Haverstock said the site had been monitored five weeks prior to the report, which means the crime took place between the last week of September and the last week in October.
In addition to ancient artwork being stolen, dozens of other images at the site were damaged as the thief or thieves cut away the pieces they stole.
The petroglyph site is protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. According to the BLM, “this site is one of the most significant rock art sites in the region and is still used by the local Paiute for ceremony.”
Convictions on ARPA violations can result in fines and/or prison terms. In addition, ARPA provides for civil fines and even the forfeiture of vehicles and equipment used in violating the statute.
Power tools and ladders were used to remove the ancient rock art. One piece that was removed, Haverstock said following initial reports of the theft, was more than 15 feet off the ground and would have taken extensive effort to remove intact.
“The suspect(s) may have experience and access to masonry cutting tools,” a press release from the BLM states.
Now that the BLM has the six stolen petroglyph panels in its possession, Haverstock said it is time to decide what will be done with them. “There has been a lot of discussion on that, and we’ve agreed that they will be used for educational purposes. We do consult with the local tribe on this, but ultimately, the decision is up to the (BLM) field manager.”
The panels cannot be returned to their original placement at the site, Haverstock said, because the damage done while removing them is too great to repair.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call BLM law enforcement at (760) 937-0301 or (760) 937-0657.