A Mayan pyramid was bulldozed for roadfill gravel, according to a shocking report today from Belize News reporter Jules Vasquez. The site of Nohmul main temple and ceremonial grounds was thought to be around 2,300 years old. Made of limestone brick, it had withstood hurricane winds and the sands of time — but it couldn’t withstand the excavators and bulldozers that attacked the site last week.
“[W]hat the Maya built with stone tools and manual labour ages ago is being demolished with heavy equipment, because these contractors are too lazy to find a proper quarry,” Vasquez wrote.
He traveled to the disgraceful scene, where nothing remains but the very core of the once-huge pyramid, with two archeologists. Dr. Allan Moore and Dr. John Morris were clearly in shock.
It is illegal in Belize to destroy pre-Colombian structures. Moore said that if he had known in time, he would have brought in the police to halt the bulldozers.
Morris told Vasquez: “This is Noh Mul…one of the largest sites in Belize. It is incredible that someone would actually have the gall to destroy this building out here. There is no way that one can say that they did not know.”
An Associated Press report added that Belize Institute of Archaeology head Dr. Jaime Awe said that he was “sickened” by the pointless destruction.
And it isn’t the first incident of this kind. In 2003, a Mayan mound in Benque Viejo, Belize was mostly destroyed in a single day, by a property owner who claimed that he’d gotten the go ahead to build on the site.
“Archaeological terrorism is probably too strong a description in this case, but in terms of what was lost when a Benque Viejo del Carmen property owner pushed a bulldozer through a Mayan mound, few other words come to mind,” wrote News Channel 5 reporter Patrick Jones at the time.
According to Maya Studies, Nohmul means “great mound” or “great hill.” The Mayan complex was a major ceremonial center localted on the crest of a ridge. It is — or was — “the highest landmark in the Orange Walk/Corozal area.”
Unfortunately, the bulldozed Mayan pyramid is now mostly gravel.
[pyramid at Lamanai, Belize photo by Elaine Radford]