57-year-old Lonnie Winbourn was picked up on a warrant in June 2017 when a Bureau of Land Management ranger spotted pottery shards in his pocket leading to an investigation and ultimately a jail sentence for stealing artifacts from an ancient Native American burial ground in Colorado. Investigators say Winbourn, from Cortez, made several trips into a portion of the Canyons of the Ancients in May and June 2017:
“During these trips, Winbourn located an Ancestral Puebloan ceremonial site with a large dance plaza, a likely subterranean kiva, and multiple human burials. Winbourn illegally excavated, removed, damaged, and altered the site.”
CBS Denver reports law enforcement discovered 64 items from the Ancestral Puebloan Period in his possession, including jewelry, an axe head, and other tools:
“Archeological resources at the Canyons of the Ancients are irreplaceable cultural artifacts that have been entrusted to the common good. Anyone who seeks to destroy or profit off of these resources will face prosecution and serious consequences.” -U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn
Winbourn was convicted of violating the Archeological Resources Protection Act and has been sentenced to just over a year in prison. Archeologists working in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument have restored the original site and curated the stolen objects.
“We as a society must recognize the importance of respecting all cultures; including those artifacts representing cultural resources of Native Americans.”-Bureau of Land Management Agent Randall Carpenter