Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Criminal Charges Threaten Belize Contractor Bulldozing Mayan Ruins For Rip Rap

A highway contractor in northern Belize who chose to destroy a 2,300 year old Mayan ceremonial pyramid located in a privately owned sugar cane field, and use the decimated stone for rip rap on the highway project could face criminal prosecution under the laws of Belize protecting pre-Hispanic cultural ruins. The hundred foot tall pyramid complex at Nohmul, in northern Belize, is a well known archaeological site, and according to Jamie Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, could not possibly have been mistaken by the contractor as a naturally occurring gravel mound. "These guys knew this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness," Awe said of the desecration. "It's a feeling of incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity ... Why can't these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It's mind-boggling."

Tulane University Anthropology professor Francisco Estrada-Belli, complains that the desecration of Mayan religious sites for construction material is a daily occurrence in Belize. "The only way to stop it is by showing that it is a major crime and people can and will go to jail for it," according to Estrada-Belli. Tension between the infrastructure construction needs of emerging modern societies and respect for ancient cultural heritage requires government vigilance which often is not supported by the requisite level of resources devoted to enforcement of historical preservation efforts.

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