Trial is under way before U.S. District Judge David K. Winder of a man accused of looting an ancient Indian site near Moab.

In his opening remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce C. Lubeck said Kenneth Walker Kirby was seen Feb. 8 in one of two shelter caves in a side canyon not far from the Potash Road, which runs beside the Colorado River.According to Lubeck, Brett William Johnson, conservation officer with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, noticed Kirby in "Trappers Alcove" in an unnamed box canyon. He said Kirby was bending over, "holding some kind of a wood and screen box," and wearing a surgical mask to prevent his inhaling dust.

He said Kirby jumped off a ledge about 10 feet high, and Johnson got a good look at his face. He also wrote down Kirby's vehicle license number, Lubeck said.

Johnson contacted the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the land involved, and the U.S. Forest Service. The next day, he took officers there. They found fresh footprints and signs of digging and sifting at Trappers Alcove and nearby "Mike's Cave," Lubeck added.

The caves are archaeologically valuable, the prosecutor said.

"These are not major structures," as in Hovenweep National Monument. "They're not great caches of artifacts, but they are of archaeological significance. This isn't an insignificant picking up of an arrowhead."

When Kirby was arrested, he said, "I was arrested for diggin' a hole and having long hair," Lubeck related.

Jerold D. McPhee, Kirby's lawyer, said Anasazi and Fremont culture remains are scattered throughout southern Utah. But Kirby isn't accused of knocking down ruins like those at Mesa Verde, he said. "These are simple dirt caves."

In one of the caves a name, Mike, was spray-painted "in orange brilliant spray paint" 20 years ago. Also a date of 1962 was discovered.

So under the government's theory, "what damage, if any, did Mr. Kirby do to that site that wasn't already done?" McPhee asked.

A trail was "blasted out of the (cliff) wall" nearby, he added. Also, he said, he doesn't know when sites there were looted.

Kirby says he wasn't there, and that he will tell the jury where he was on Feb. 8, McPhee said. He said Kirby won't deny that his car was present.

"There is nothing more destructive to an archaeological site than professional archaeologists excavating it," he said.