In one of the most egregious incidents of blatant stupidity, a road crew in the tiny Central American nation of Belize almost completely destroyed a 2,300-year-old Mayan pyramid to create road fill. Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archeology, announced on Monday that the destruction of Nohmul, near the border with México, was detected last week. They managed to halt any further destruction and have zoned off the site.
“It’s a feeling of incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity … they were using this for road fill,” Awe said. “It’s like being punched in the stomach. It’s just so horrendous.”
Nohmul, which stood about 100 feet high, dates to at least 230 B.C. and was well-known to Belize authorities. It sat in a privately-owned sugar cane field, but its presence was obvious, noted Awe, who insisted that the road crew couldn’t possibly have mistaken it for a natural hill.
“These guys knew that this was an ancient structure,” Awe said. “It’s just bloody laziness.”
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.”
If there’s any good thing, it’s that the road crew and whoever was in charge of it could face criminal charges, since Belize has a federal prohibiting the destruction of such sites.
But, it’s not the first time this has happened. For years, pre-Hispanic archeological sites have been destroyed throughout Latin America to make room for buildings, soccer stadiums and parking lots. In Puebla, México, the “Iglesia de Neustra Señora de los Remedios” (Church of Our Lady of Remedies) sits atop the Cholula Pyramid, which dates to the 3rd century B.C. and is the largest pyramid in the world. But, that church is very old; constructed years before most people realized the value of indigenous buildings.
It’s really hard to believe that, at one time, the Mayans were among the most advanced and civilized societies in the ancient world. They charted the night skies, developed intricate farming techniques and created their own form of writing. Now, their descendants are peddling homemade wares for a few American dollars and destroying those carefully and painfully-constructed edifices to even out some roads. I can only hope the vandals in the Nohmul case will endure some type of severe punishment.