Just a year ago it was reported on May 13, 2013, a Mayan pyramid that had stood for 2,300 years in Belize had been reduced to rubble to make fill for roads.  In the Central American country, the temple at the Noh Mul site in northern Belize was largely torn down by backhoes and bulldozers.

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According to John Morris, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology in Belize, this destruction is one of the worst that he had seen in his entire 25 years of archaeology in Belize.  Morris stated though the pyramid was grown over with trees and brush, there could be no mistaking what it was.

In this image released by Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology on Monday May 13, 2013, a backhoe claws away at the sloping sides of the Nohmul complex, one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids on May 10, 2013 in northern Belize. A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities announced on Monday. (AP Photo/Jaime Awe)

In this image released by Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology on Monday May 13, 2013, a backhoe claws away at the sloping sides of the Nohmul complex, one of Belize’s largest Mayan pyramids on May 10, 2013 in northern Belize. A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize’s largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project. (AP Photo/Jaime Awe)

After a lengthy investigation, charges were levied on June 27, 2013, against four individuals: foreman Javier Nunez, excavator driver Emil Cruz, and the managing directors of D-Mar Construction, Denny and Emelda Grijalva.

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Similar destruction occurred at the nearby San Estevan site in 2005, as well as at many other ancient sites throughout Belize.   Professor Norman Hammond of Boston University, who worked on Belizean archaeological sites extensively during the 1980s, told the Associated Press that “bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize”.

Nohmul (or Noh Mul) is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site located on the eastern Yucatán Peninsula, in what is today northern Belize.

 

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The name Nohmul may be translated as “great mound” in Yucatec Maya.   It is the most important Maya site in northern Belize. The site included a large pyramid, about 17 meters (56 ft) tall, built around 250 BC. Most of the pyramid was destroyed as written above.

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Nohmul was occupied initially during the Preclassic era of Mesoamerican chronology (c. 350 BC to 250 AD). By the 5th century, monumental construction at the site had effectively ceased and the site seems to have been largely abandoned save for some scattered rural-domestic activities. After a hiatus in construction activities of several centuries, Nohmul was reoccupied and large-scale building resumed, with maximal activity seen during the Late Classic era (c. 7th–10th centuries). The site was densely developed and occupied into the 1100s.  The site is noted for its unusual layout, with the urban or ceremonial precinct spanning the crest of a limestone ridge overlooking the Hondo River, a permanent river that forms the modern border between Mexico and Belize.  It consists of two separate clusters of structures, an East Group and West Group, linked by a raised causeway, or sacbe. The East Group is the larger and has been more extensively excavated.

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The site is 7 miles (11 km) north of Orange Walk Town in northern Belize. The site occupies about 12 square miles (31 km2) of land. The two groups of buildings have a total of ten plazas. Combined, these complexes include more than 80 separate structures. Most of them were constructed either in the Preclassic or Classic period, although there is evidence of additional building activity in the early Postclassic.The site has had professional excavations by government-authorized archeological teams, including four field seasons in the 1980s by an American team.

Built above the Hondo River to control the region’s trade routes, the site was occupied for centuries. At its height, it was the seat of government for an area spanning approximately 8 square miles (21 km2). Later pre-Columbian residents built structures of the northern Yucatán type over those erected in the Classic era. Some of these more recent constructions covered the front of older stairways. These newer constructions include one that resembles El Caracol, Chichen Itza in Chichén Itzá. These later constructions are evidence supporting the theory that outsiders from the Yucatán settled in Nohmul.

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4 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    I simply have no words to to write because my anger and sadness at this destruction. human beings are the most destructive from archeological sites to animals and art works. I would put these people away for life. All to make a road?! I did not know of this and this is sad

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  2. roberthorvat says:

    Great post. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I am absolutely mortified !!!

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    • I was mortified too. It is only a year old but I had not heard about it before I found it recently. I’ve never been to Belize but I have been to the ruins at Chichen Itza and I can imagine the heartbreak over the destruction.

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