Skip to main content

Belize deputy PM calls for prosecutions in pyramid destruction

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 5:49 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
  • 2,300-year-old Mayan pyramid ripped up for road fill
  • Tourism board alleges involvement by government officials
  • Tourism and culture ministy says full investigation ordered

(CNN) -- The deputy prime minister of Belize is calling for full prosecution of those responsible for destroying a 2,300-year-old Mayan pyramid to turn it into rock for roads.

"All those found responsible for the destruction of this site should be persecuted to the full extent of the law," read a statement from the office of Gaspar Vega, who is also the representative for the Orange Walk area in northern Belize where the Noh Mul pyramid was destroyed last week.

Only a small chunk of the pyramid, which stood about 65 feet tall and was the center of a settlement of about 40,000 people in 250 B.C., remains after backhoes and bulldozers began removing the limestone slabs with which it was built last week. The pyramid stood on private land.

The limestone is favored for building roads in the area, and the local chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association alleged in a statement that local government officials have been complicit in the destruction of ancient sites like Noh Mul.

Mayan pyramid bulldozed to make gravel

"Noh Mul had been one of the ancient monuments with the greatest tourism development potential in northern Belize," the association said. "Unfortunately, such progress has been severely hampered due to the ignorance and greed of certain individuals."

"More sites have been destroyed in Orange Walk by the Ministry of Works and others for road fill material than in any other part of the country," the association said it was told by an unnamed senior government official.

In his statement, Vega denied any involvement.

"Minister Vega also emphatically repudiates the allegation and or perception that he was involved in any way with the destruction of the Noh Mul," the statement read.

In a separate statement, Belize's Ministry of Tourism & Culture said it had commissioned a full investigation of the Noh Mul destruction, calling it "callous, ignorant and unforgivable."

"Cultural landmarks such as Noh Mul are sacred artifacts of Belizean history and should be protected at all costs. This expressed disdain for our laws and policies is incomprehensible," the ministry statement said.

Archeologists had similar words for what happened to the pyramid.

"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."

Archaeologists said they would ask police to take action against both the landowner and contractor, according to local media reports.

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions and pleaded for U.S. help in interviews with CNN.
Hundreds of jihadis in Syria are from abroad -- which countries have the biggest problem?
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
CNN attends a funeral where mourners keep their distance.
updated 5:13 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Libyan militia members have apparently turned the abandoned U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, into a water park.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Obama's remarks that he didn't yet have a strategy for ISIS in Syria is widely criticized.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive, prompting criticism.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
updated 5:55 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In a major breach of privacy, a hacker leaked a series of pictures allegedly showing Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities in the nude.
Instead of weaving garments sold in the West, children should be in school
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 168 million child laborers around the world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT