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article imagePolice in Belize may lay charges after destruction of Mayan ruin

By Anne Sewell     May 15, 2013 in World
Archaeologists are appalled and police are considering criminal charges after a construction company willfully destroyed a major ancient Mayan site to make gravel for village roads.
According to reports from the Caribbean, Belizean police are investigating the construction company that has destroyed most of the largest Mayan pyramid in Belize.
A local TV station and archaeologists caught the action on Friday as excavators and bulldozers ploughed into the 60-foot-tall main temple at Nohmul, known as the "great mound." This is one of the tallest structures in northern Belize, located along the Mexican border in the Yucatan Peninsula.
John Morris of the Institute of Archaeology told 7 News Belize, "We can't salvage what has happened out here. It is an incredible display of ignorance. I am appalled."
"It is incredible that someone would actually have the gall to destroy this building out here," he added. "There is absolutely no way that they would not know that these are Maya mounds."
A man with a machete reportedly threatened a news crew, as dump trucks hauled away limestone and rock from the temple. The TV station said the structure had been "whittled down to a narrow core."
A photographer managed to capture an image of a Caterpillar excavator tearing down what was left of the limestone-rich ruins, which is shown above.
"It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous," Jamie Awe, head of the institute, told AP. "These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness."
He referred to the fact that the company could have found a gravel pit to suit their needs.
Dr. Allan Moore, an Archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology told 7 News Belize, "This is one of the largest buildings in Northern Belize. I am appalled! I was hoping that when I was driving up from the main San Juan road that it would not be this one but when I got closer I couldn't believe it when I saw all the trucks. This is an incredible destruction."
Experts say that there is no way that the temple could have been mistaken for a normal rock formation.
The Nohmul complex was first recorded by Europeans in 1897 and covers around 12 square miles in the center of a privately owned sugar cane field in Orange Walk district. The pre-Colombian site is believed to be around 2,500 years old.
The construction consisted of twin ceremonial clusters connected by a raised causeway and surrounded by 10 plazas. The Mayans used stone tools to quarry the rock and then built the complex by hand. Experts estimate that 40,000 people would have lived there between 500 and 250 BC.
All pre-Hispanic ruins are protected by federal law and police have now stopped the excavation. Officials are investigating both D-Mar Construction and also the landowner and criminal charges are possible.
The company's owner, Denny Grijalva, who is reportedly a legislative candidate, told Belize TV that "he knew nothing about the project" and directed reporters to his foreman. No follow-up questions were answered by either the company's owner or the foreman.
Archaeologists say the monument has been dug so deep in the middle that when the rain comes, it could well collapse. As 7 News Belize states, "So, once a monument to antiquity, now a monument to ignorance and expediency."
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