Archaeology

International Outrage after Ancient Structure Destroyed by Company to use as Gravel



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International outrage was raised after it was learned a construction company in Belize bulldozed an ancient Mayan pyramid in order to use the stones for gravel to use in road fill.

Once standing dozens of feet tall, the construction crews have caused great destruction to this ancient structure, which was built an estimated 2,300 years ago. The carving out of the pyramid by bulldozers and other machinery was discovered earlier in May 2013 at the northern Belize site.

The large pyramid at the site of Noh Mul (translated as "Big Mound"), is only one of 15 ancient Mayan sites "important enough to be noted on the National Geographic World Atlas," according to National Geographic.

Noh Mul is located on private land.

Officials said there is no way tearing down the pyramid could have been an accident. While it is said the structure was covered by some foliage, there was no mistaking what it was.

"This is one of the worst that I have seen in my entire 25 years of archaeology in Belize," John Morris, an archaeologist with Belize's Institute of Archaeology, told local channel 7NewsBelize. "We can't salvage what has happened out here - it is an incredible display of ignorance."

This act breaks local laws as all ancient sites from early civilizations are protected under the law, even those located on private property. The Institute of Archaeology in Belize plans to investigate and take those who demolished the historic build to court, which could include both the landowner and contractor.

The construction company's owner said he was out of the country when the dig began and placed blame on the foreman of the job, reported local media. The company had allegedly been hired to fix local roads.

Some allege local politicians were aware of the company taking the limestone for gravel to repair the roads. Belize officials said they did not issue any mining permits in relation to this destruction. Reportedly, the owner of De-Mar’s Stone Company accepts a level of blame and said he is cooperating with the investigation.

"This Maya site is well known to the local community, who have worked on various projects at the site," Morris said, reported National Geographic. "The Institute of Archaeology is going to use this opportunity to really embark on a national awareness campaign for the preservation and protection of the country."

The ancient Maya city where Noh Mul is located housed tens of thousands of people. There were 81 buildings and the city stretched about 12 miles, reported CNN.

The now-destroyed pyramid stood approximately 65 to 100 feet tall (depending on which report is read) and was made of limestone bricks that were hand cut.

Reportedly, this type of limestone is considered high quality and coveted for use by contractors.

Preserving the structure is not possible, as only a "small chunk" remains reported an updated CNN piece.

"Noh Mul had been one of the ancient monuments with the greatest tourism development potential in northern Belize," the Belize Tourism Industry Association said. "Unfortunately, such progress has been severely hampered due to the ignorance and greed of certain individuals."

Noh Mul was first recorded in 1897 by Thomas Gann. Over the next several decades, Gann worked at the site recovering artifacts and remains of the ancient Mayan society. He's even located tombs containing human remains. Other researchers have come since that time and continued to document and map out the city.

Unfortunately, they have a lot less to work with now with the loss of the grand pyramid.

Archeologists plan to go through the rubble of the former grand pyramid to see if any artifacts remain.

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130515-belize-pyramid-destroyed-archeology-maya-nohmul-world-road/
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.7newsbelize.com/index.php#story1
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.7newsbelize.com/index.php#story1
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.cnn.com/2013/05/14/world/americas/belize-mayan-pyramid-destroyed/index.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/15/world/americas/belize-mayan-pyramid-destroyed/?hpt=hp_t4
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.nichbelize.org/ia-maya-sites/nohmul.html