DURANGO, Colo. (CBS4) — A Colorado man has been sentenced to just over a year in prison for stealing artifacts from an ancient Native American burial ground. Lonnie Winbourn, 57, was convicted of violating the Archeological Resources Protection Act in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Investigators say Winbourn, who is 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,” investigators stated.
Winbourn was arrested on an unrelated warrant on June 4, 2017. During the arrest, a Bureau of Land Management Ranger identified pottery shards in Winbourn’s pocket. Winbourn admitted to the Ranger that he had additional artifacts in his backpack.
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,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn. “Anyone who seeks to destroy or profit off of these resources will face prosecution and serious consequences.”
“We as a society must recognize the importance of respecting all cultures; including those artifacts representing cultural resources of Native Americans,” said Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Randall Carpenter, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Office of Law Enforcement.
Archeologists working in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument have restored the original site and curated the stolen objects.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is located west of Cortez and is public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. It contains the highest known archeological site density in the United States, with rich, well-preserved evidence of native cultures, to include the Ancestral Puebloan culture.