A self-described amateur archaeologist who pleaded guilty to disturbing a 1,400-year-old Alaska Native gravesite was sentenced to three months in prison by a federal judge on Wednesday.
It was the first such conviction in Alaska under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979, a prosecutor said.
In addition to prison time, Ian Martin Lynch, 27, must pay $7,536 in restitution and serve one year of supervised release, U.S. District Judge James M. Fitzgerald said.
Lynch, of Craig on Prince of Wales Island, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the grave as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He was convicted of taking the skull of an ancient Native child while on a trip near Prince of Wales Island in 1997.
The man had discovered the gravesite while exploring on Hecata Island near his hunting camp.
"He stumbled upon a skull that had been in the open and felt that it might have been of archaeological significance, but he had no intent to offend anybody, to desecrate a gravesite," defense attorney Rich Kurtner told KRBD-Radio.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki said Lynch continued to poke around the grave for additional artifacts "because he knew Alaska Natives often times bury artifacts with their dead."
An earlier conviction was thrown out by a federal appeals court that ruled prosecutors had to prove Lynch knew the artifact was of archaeological significance.
The case angered many Native organizations that urged the judge to impose the stiffest sentence possible.
"If it was a white person's grave, they would have thrown him in jail and then talked about how long he would have had to serve in jail," said Joe Williams, tribal president of Saxman, near Ketchikan.