This is a terrible shame. An ancient Mayan pyramid was bulldozed by a construction crew building a road project in Belize, for road fill. Not the least of the shame is that archeoligists believe the road crew was fully aware of the historical significance of the site and such treasures are protected by the government even when located on private property. The pyramid lacked the straight sloping sides associated with better known examples but was nonetheless one of the largest such examples.
Head of the Belizean Institute of Archaeology Jaime Awe said the Noh Mul temple was levelled by a road-building company seeking gravel for road filler.There's no doubt the construction crew knew what they were doing.
The Mayan temple dates back to pre-Columbian times and is estimated to be 2,300 year old. Only a small core of the pyramid was left standing.
Police said they were investigating the incident.
Archaeologists said this was not the first incident of its kind.
"Bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize," Prof Normand Hammond told the Associated Press news agency.
Archaeologists said they were alerted to the destruction late last week.
The Maya complex lies on private land but under Belizean law, any pre-Hispanic ruins come under government protection.
Dr John Morris of the Belizean Institute of Archaeology said the workers would have been aware of what they were doing.
Nohmul sat in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids. But Awe said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 100 feet (30 meters) tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well-known and the landscape there is naturally flat.
"These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness," Awe said.
The Belize community-action group Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action called the destruction of the archaeological site "an obscene example of disrespect for the environment and history."The police are investigating and there may be charges brought but it hardly seems possible that this would be any deterrent even in the future.
It is not the first time it's happened in Belize, a country of about 350,000 people that is largely covered in jungle and dotted with hundreds of Maya ruins, though few as large as Nohmul.
Norman Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University who worked in Belizean research projects in the 1980s, wrote in an email that "bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize (the whole of the San Estevan center has gone, both of the major pyramids at Louisville, other structures at Nohmul, many smaller sites), but this sounds like the biggest yet."
Arlen Chase, chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Central Florida, said, "Archaeologists are disturbed when such things occur, but there is only a very limited infrastructure in Belize that can be applied to cultural heritage management."
"Unfortunately, they (destruction of sites) are all too common, but not usually in the center of a large Maya site," Chase wrote.
He said there had probably still been much to learn from the site. "A great deal of archaeology was undertaken at Nohmul in the '70s and '80s, but this only sampled a small part of this large center."