Skip to main content

Ancient Mayan pyramid destroyed for road fill

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 12:18 PM EDT, Wed May 15, 2013
The 2,300-year-old Mayan pyramid at Noh Mul was destroyed to make fill for roads in Belize, local media report. The 2,300-year-old Mayan pyramid at Noh Mul was destroyed to make fill for roads in Belize, local media report.
HIDE CAPTION
Ancient pyramid destroyed for gravel
Ancient pyramid destroyed for gravel
Ancient pyramid destroyed for gravel
Ancient pyramid destroyed for gravel
Ancient pyramid destroyed for gravel
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pyramid was built around 250 B.C.
  • Limestone used to construct pyramid valued for road construction
  • Reports: Archaeologists say they'll pursue charges against landowner, contractor

(CNN) -- A Mayan pyramid that has stood for 2,300 years in Belize has been reduced to rubble, apparently to make fill for roads.

Local media in the Central American country of 334,000 people report the temple at the Noh Mul site in northern Belize was largely torn down by backhoes and bulldozers last week.

"This is one of the worst that I have seen in my entire 25 years of archaeology in Belize," John Morris, an archaeologist with the country's Institute of Archaeology, told local channel 7NewsBelize. "We can't salvage what has happened out here -- it is an incredible display of ignorance."

The institute's director, Jaime Awe, called the destruction "one of the worse set of blows I have felt philosophically and professionally."

Mayan pyramid bulldozed to make gravel

"What happened there is both deplorable and unforgivable," Awe told News5 in Belize.

Though the pyramid was grown over with trees and brush, there could be no mistaking what it was, Morris said.

"There is no way that one can say that they did not know. Even for you guys as laypeople can look and you'll see the building," 7NewsBelize quoted Morris as saying.

History and travel in Belize

The pyramid was the center of a settlement of about 40,000 people and 81 buildings over 12 square miles, according to 7NewsBelize. It stood about 65 feet tall and was built around 250 B.C. with hand-cut limestone bricks, archaeologists said.

The limestone is quality material used to upgrade local roads, and it's prized by contractors, local opposition legislator John Briceno told CTV3 News.

"The Mayas use good material to build their temples, and these temples are close to (the village of) Douglas so that means that they have to use less diesel, less wear and tear; they can do more trips per day, and at the end of the day they can make more money," CTV3 quotes Briceno as saying.

And there was plenty of the material in Noh Mul.

Touring Latin America's ruins

"Like a huge palace or building or a huge temple, it would have had many rooms in there, multilayered rooms so you have rooms for people living, and you would also had several tombs in there of the people who lived in this area here," Morris told 7NewsBelize.

Awe said archaeologists would try to go through the rubble for artifacts.

"I'm hoping that there will be bits and pieces that we can acquire from any kind of work that we do there. But to say that we can try to preserve the building anymore; that is impossible," he told News5.

The mound sits on private land, and archaeologists said they would ask police to take action against both the landowner and contractor, according to reports.

"It is against the law; it is against the nature act to willfully destroy an ancient monument," Awe told News5. "Any willful destruction of an ancient site or monument has penalties of 10 years' imprisonment or $10,000 for this kind of destruction."

Work at the site stopped when the archaeologists were alerted to it, but the site's scientific value has been severely compromised, they said.

Its value will now be as something else, Moore told 7NewsBelize.

"It's a monument of ignorance, and unfortunately that's the way it is," he told the station. "Now we will probably have to look at this and say that it is a good example of what not to do."

27 must-sees on this incredible planet

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT