U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials said the suspected thieves have not been identified and the investigation is continuing into what they called one of the worst acts of vandalism ever committed on public land managed by the BLM.
The petroglyph panels had been cut and chiseled off an eastern Sierra rock art site in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in October.
Bernadatte Lovata, manager of the BLM field office in Bishop, declined to disclose details about the recovery except to say, "We found all five panels by following an anonymous tip sent to us in a letter."
"Now, the healing can begin," she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Recovery was a priority for me, and the public outrage intensified the need for them to be returned."
The petroglyphs would not have garnered a great deal on the illicit market, probably $500 to $1,500 each, officials said, but they are priceless to Indian tribes who regard the massive rock carvings as a window into the souls of their ancestors.
"I feels real good to have them come back home," Paiute tribal historic preservation officer Raymond Andrews told the Times.