Ancient artifacts yield a modern dilemma: What can be collected legally?

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Photos of Jonathan Bourne, an anesthesiologist at Mammoth Hospital, appeared on a hiking-club website. (Bob Burd)

 By Louis Sahagun

SEPTEMBER 12, 2015 ; Reporting from Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

In one photograph, Dr. Jonathan Bourne crouches over an ancient wooden bow sticking out of a melting glacier in the High Sierra. In another picture, he is digging the bow out of the ice with a rock.

The photos of Bourne, an anesthesiologist at Mammoth Hospital, appeared on a hiking-club website — and soon, he had visitors.

Federal agents searched Bourne's mansion in December, recovering roughly 30,000 ancient items they believe were unlawfully taken from hundreds of public land sites across the West: stone mortars, glass beads, projectile points and pendants. They also seized logbooks containing details of his archaeological finds.

Bourne, 59, has not been charged. Federal authorities are only now close to finishing their investigation, said Michael Grate, a U.S. Forest Service special agent. Wooden splinters recovered at the High Sierra glacier by federal archaeologists matched the bow in Bourne's possession, officials said.

Bourne declined to comment other than to say: "The blog has gotten me in trouble with the authorities. The bow in question has gotten me in trouble as well. It might have legal consequences." [...]

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[Image caption: Photos of Jonathan Bourne, an anesthesiologist at Mammoth Hospital, appeared on a hiking-club website. (Bob Burd)]