Mayan temple demolished for road fill

noh mul pyramid

A 2,300-year-old Mayan temple in Central America was recently razed for use as road fill, it was revealed late last week.

The construction company that demolished the temple, which was approximately 160 feet square at the base and 20 feet high, is owned by a local Belizean politician.

The temple was located 50 miles north of Belize City, near the border with Mexico, and was part of the pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological site at Noh Mul, on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula.

“This total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable,” said Tracy Panton, Belize’s Tourism and Culture Minister. “This expressed disdain for our laws is incomprehensible.”

The archeological complex, like all pre-Columbian ruins, was under the protection of the state even though it was located in a privately owned sugar cane plantation, according to Agence France-Presse.

Noh Mul was the center of a Mayan community of 40,000 that was initially occupied between 350-250 BC. It was inhabited off and on until about 900 years ago.

Authorities learned of the incident at the end of last week, blaming the D-Mar construction company, which is owned by Denny Grijalva, a candidate for mayor of Belize City.

Grijalva, not surprisingly, has denied any knowledge of the affair.

Jaime Awe, the director of the Belize Archeological Institute, expressed “incredible disbelief” at the destruction of the pyramid, one of the largest in Belize, in an interview with a Belize television station.

“They were using this for road fill,” he said.

Experts said there was no way the construction company could not have known they were Mayan ruins, and should have been aware of the importance of the site.

“I was extremely shocked that the intangible cultural heritage of the Maya community of Belize and humanity as a whole can deliberately be destroyed,” said Greg Ch’oc, a Mayan leader.

The government in Belize City said it is pursuing a “vigorous” investigation into the incident, according to The Associated Press.

(Top: The Noh Mul Pyramid in northern Belize after being nearly completed demolished.)

14 thoughts on “Mayan temple demolished for road fill

    • There are no laws that prohibit the desecration / destruction of historical or cultural landmarks? Or is demolition only prohibited when locales have been recognized as “historic structures,” such as important post-Texan Independence buildings, rather than, say, unrecognized pre-Columbian formations?

      • Texas has fairly reasonable laws protecting archaeological sites on public lands (including in state waters, which is my area), but oversight continues to be problematic, given the limited resources of the agency responsible, the Texas Historical Commission. They had their budget cut in about half during the last biennium legislative session.

      • That’s unfortunate; I’m a strong proponent of private property rights, but I also recognize the inherent value of historic sites and the fact that once they’re gone they’re gone for good. I understand that preserving every “old thing” isn’t feasible, but I hate seeing historically significant structures, formatations, etc., destroyed simply because they’re in the way or it’s expedient to do so.

      • I agree entirely. The Texas Historical Commission has for years had a very active outreach program to private landowners to find ways to protect sites on their lands, and to recognize those who do.

    • I was more stunned by the stupidity of it. Road fill can’t be that expensive; but the potential tourism value of a Mayan pyramid is almost incalculable. Why would tear down a unique structure that could be an ongoing source of revenue to use it for something as cheap as gravel? And that’s just looking at it on a strictly dollars-and-cents level, rather than from the standpoint of preserving the past.

  1. Come live in Belize a while and you’ll be as shocked and outraged by this as everybody else, Boll. But you won’t be all that surprised. Belize is still very Third World and many people–not all, of course, but many people– in Third World places just aren’t enlightened. Places like Belize, where I’ve lived almost a year. Or Texas, where I lived for 62 years.

    • Yes, unfortunately, we tend to sometimes still lump the people of Third World nations together as “Noble Savages,” who, though, they may be ignorant, would never be so crass as to put profit before cultural heritage.

      But whether it’s Belize, Texas or Athens, Greece, there are plenty of folks who don’t understand or don’t care about the past, and will always choose the course that’s most expedient for themselves.

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