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Ranch will keep hosting movie shoots but tighten rules after 'Maze Runner' flap over artifacts

Last Updated Oct 12, 2015 at 3:20 pm EDT

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2014 file photo, American Indian petroglyphs appear on rocks on private land on top of a hill in Placitas, N.M. The manager of a nearby private New Mexico ranch says he will continue to let movie productions film at the site, despite a recent flap over American Indian artifacts with the production of "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials," highlighting the challenges crews face while filming in the state’s unique landscape. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The manager of a private New Mexico ranch says he will continue to let movie productions film at the site after a studio squelched rumours that actors stole American Indian artifacts while filming “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” there.

Diamond Tail Ranch manager Roch Hart told The Associated Press he’s happy a 20th Century Fox investigation found the cast did not swipe any of the ancient items scattered throughout the property.

If items were found missing, the ranch might have banned future filming, he said.

“We really don’t want to open it up to cattle ranching so we’re happy to continue to let more filming,” Hart said. “But we are going to impose stricter guidelines. I have a few things up my sleeve.”

Diamond Tail Ranch sits near two Native American pueblos, a historic Hispanic village and an abandoned mining community. Jeep tours bring visitors to the isolated, mountainous region, where it’s not uncommon to find arrowheads, petroglyphs, pieces of pottery and even bones dating back hundreds of years.

“Maze Runner” star Dylan O’Brien suggested during a recent TV interview that cast members took artifacts from the ranch despite warnings not to do so.

“They gave us this big speech when we got there to shoot, and they said, ‘Don’t take anything. Respect the grounds,'” O’Brien said last month during an appearance on “Live with Kelly and Michael.”

“They were very strict about littering and ‘Don’t take any artifacts like rocks, skulls … anything like that.’ And everyone just takes stuff, you know, obviously,” he said.

O’Brien, 24, didn’t say what was taken but noted people who worked on the film later fell ill and blamed superstitions about removing the items.

However, 20th Century Fox spokesman Chris Petrikin said last week a studio investigation found O’Brien’s claims were untrue.

Hart also said despite initial reports, actors stayed in designated areas, and all artifacts remained at the ranch.

Maxine McBrinn, curator of archaeology for the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe, said it’s illegal to take American Indian artifacts from public land but not private land.

Still, McBrinn said it’s a matter of respect that visitors not disrupt New Mexico’s unique landscape or ancient items.

“This is not a place for treasure hunters,” she said. “If you remove something, you do damage.”

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras.

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