A construction company in Belize used bulldozers and backhoes to essentially destroy an ancient Mayan pyramid to make room for a road-building project, authorities said Monday. The pyramid was one of the largest Mayan structures still standing in the Central American country.
According to the Associated Press, the head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said the demolition at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was discovered at the end of last week. The pyramid, used a ceremonial center ages ago, dates back 2,300 years.
"It's a feeling of incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity ... they were using this for road fill," the AP quoted Awe saying. "It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous."
Even though the Mayan ceremonial center didn’t have edges with even stones like better-preserved pyramids, Awe said construction workers couldn’t possibly have confused it for a natural hill."These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness," Awe said.
Pictures of the pyramid’s desecration show limestone cobbles at its center, the AP wrote.
"Just to realize that the ancient Maya acquired all this building material to erect these buildings, using nothing more than stone tools and quarried the stone, and carried this material on their heads, using tump lines," said Awe. "To think that today we have modern equipment, that you can go and excavate in a quarry anywhere, but that this company would completely disregard that and completely destroyed this building. Why can't these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It's mind-boggling."
Belizean police are currently investigating the demolition of the Mayan pyramid. The government protects pre-Hispanic ruins, even if it’s on private property like the Nohmul complex.
Though the destruction of historical sites in Belize isn’t uncommon, it’s normally not done on a large Mayan site like Nohmul.
According to Robert Rosenswig, an archaeologist at the State University of New York at Albany, there is a silver lining to bulldozing a pyramid: Their inner cores are revealed.
"The one advantage of this massive destruction, to the core site, is that the remains of early domestic activity are now visible on the surface," Rosenswig wrote in an academic paper, quoted by the AP.