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#464056 - 05/11/13 04:48 AM No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple  
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Mayan Nohmul Pyramid In Belize Destroyed By Bulldozer

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.

The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said the destruction at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was detected late last week. The ceremonial center dates back at least 2,300 years and is the most important site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico.

"It's a feeling of Incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity ... they were using this for road fill," Awe said. "It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous."

Nohmul sat in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids. But Awe said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 100 feet tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well-known and the landscape there is naturally flat.

"These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness", Awe said.

Photos from the scene showed backhoes clawing away at the pyramid's sloping sides, leaving an isolated core of limestone cobbles at the center, with what appears to be a narrow Mayan chamber dangling above one clawed-out section.

"Just to realize that the ancient Maya acquired all this building material to erect these buildings, using nothing more than stone tools and quarried the stone, and carried this material on their heads, using tump lines," said Awe. "To think that today we have modern equipment, that you can go and excavate in a quarry anywhere, but that this company would completely disregard that and completely destroyed this building. Why can't these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It's mind-boggling."

Belizean police said they are conducting an investigation and criminal charges are possible. The Nohmul complex sits on private land, but Belizean law says that any pre-Hispanic ruins are under government protection.

The Belize community-action group Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action called the destruction of the archaeological site "an obscene example of disrespect for the environment and history."

It is not the first time it's happened in Belize, a country of about 350,000 people that is largely covered in jungle and dotted with hundreds of Mayan ruin sites, though few as large as Nohmul.

Norman Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University who worked in Belizean research projects in the 1980s, wrote in an email that "bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize (the whole of the San Estevan center has gone, both of the major pyramids at Louisville, other structures at Nohmul, many smaller sites), but this sounds like the biggest yet."

Arlen Chase, chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Central Florida, said, "Archaeologists are disturbed when such things occur, but there is only a very limited infrastructure in Belize that can be applied to cultural heritage management."

"Unfortunately, they (destruction of sites) are all too common, but not usually in the center of a large Maya site," Chase wrote.

He said there had probably still been much to learn from the site. "A great deal of archaeology was undertaken at Nohmul in the `70s and `80s, but this only sampled a small part of this large center."

Belize isn't the only place where the handiwork of the far-flung and enormously prolific Maya builders is being destroyed. The ancient Mayas spread across southeastern Mexico and through Guatemala, Honduras and Belize.

"I don't think I am exaggerating if I say that every day a Maya mound is being destroyed for construction in one of the countries where the Maya lived," wrote Francisco Estrada-Belli, a professor at Tulane University's Anthropology Department.

"Unfortunately, this destruction of our heritage is irreversible but many don't take it seriously," he added. "The only way to stop it is by showing that it is a major crime and people can and will go to jail for it."

Robert Rosenswig, an archaeologist at the State University of New York at Albany, described the difficult and heartbreaking work of trying to salvage information at the nearby site of San Estevan following similar destruction around 2005.

"Bulldozing damage at San Estevan is extensive and the site is littered with Classic period potsherds," he wrote in an academic paper describing the scene. "We spent a number of days at the beginning of the 2005 season trying to figure out the extent of the damage .... after scratching our heads for many days, a bulldozer showed up and we realized that what appear to be mounds, when overgrown with chest-high vegetation, are actually recently bulldozed garbage piles."

However small the compensation, bulldozing pyramids is one very brutal way of revealing the inner cores of the structures, which were often built up in periodic stages of construction.

"The one advantage of this massive destruction, to the core site, is that the remains of early domestic activity are now visible on the surface," Rosenswig wrote.

Huffington Post

#464090 - 05/11/13 11:58 AM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Sep 2010
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Wizardofaahs Offline
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This hurts my heart.

There has to be a way to teach Every person in Belize to honor and respect the importance and the value of ALL of nature, archeological, and natural resources in their country. The Belizean people must want to protect and preserve these assets. Ignorance and the desire for capital gain is destroying this country. Protection of archeologic sites, the wildlife, the reef and their heritage is the responsibility of every individual.

Words have power. Speak it into existence.
#464174 - 05/13/13 05:02 AM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
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Destroying Belize's History for Land Fill

Yesterday we broke the news of the Maya edifice that is being destroyed in the Village of Nuevo San Juan in the Orange Walk District. When we arrived in the area we observed a heavy machine excavating the Maya Mount for white marl. Sources tell us that the excavation is being carried out by De Mar’s Stone Company, owned by UDP stalwart Denny Grijalva. The material obtained from the archeological site is being used by the company who was awarded a contract by Government to upgrade roads in the villages of Orange Walk North represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources Honorable Gaspar Vega. Now, we don’t know if the upgrading of roads in Orange Walk North forms part of a political propaganda since Village Elections is right around the corner, but what we do know is that one of the largest Maya structures in Northern Belize has been destroyed and the demolishing will have serious repercussions.

When we arrived in the area today, the scenario was less hostile that what we encountered yesterday when this grey Toyota pickup truck impeded us from getting closer to one of the Maya Mounts that forms part of the Nok Mul Archeological Site meaning Big Hill in Maya.

With no one in sight we were able to get closer to the Maya Mount which as you can see is almost completely destroyed and apparently this is the machine that is doing all the damage.

No one was behind the machine today and there were no dump trucks in sight but that was only for a short while. A few minutes after our camera started rolling, the dump trucks arrived in the area ready to be loaded. Of course we were not welcomed with open arms; in fact, we can safely say that this individual wielding his machete is the same one that impeded our path yesterday.

But despite several threats we waited for Doctor John Morris and Doctor Allan Moore from the Archeological Department who arrived in the area shortly after. Of course, they were appalled by what they saw and their first reaction was, “someone has to be penalized.”

Doctor John Morris- Archeological Department

“You can see that this building was constructed in four construction phase because if you see in the left hand side you see one-third in the second level and the third level of at the top and then what you looking at over there, that is a vaulted room, you can see the curvature of the vault of the room on top. This is set of destruction of a building, this is one of the largest buildings in northern Belize and for it to be completely destroyed like this is deplorable, and we will need to take someone to court for this.

Jules Vasquez – Channel 7 Reporter

“Sir, I spoke to Mr. Grijalva who is a political aspirant of the area but also owns the company that I saw hauling material and he said that it is the village chairman who showed them the whereabouts, who show them where to extract the material from.”

Doctor John Morris- Archeological Department

“It is quite obvious that in northern Belize is very flat, land and whenever you have these large looking mounts out there they are clearly going to be manmade they are not going to be something that is natural and I am surprised that the chairman would have led somebody out here to excavate or to dig this building because this is an areas well known by the people of San Jose and San Pablo to have a  number of ancient Maya buildings out here, this is NOK MUL this is one of the largest site in northern Belize.  We have actually come out here a number of times to deal with this type of issue.”

Jules Vasquez – Channel 7 Reporter

“So, you are familiar with this site in its natural state?”

Doctor John Morris- Archeological Department

“In its natural state, we are very familiar with NOK MUL, we are very familiar with San Jose/San Pablo area in fact we have maps of all mount here and it is incredible that someone would actually have the gall to destroy this building.”

This particular mount, apart from being one of the largest structures in Northern Belize, is believed to have been constructed around 250 B.C, forming part of a ceremonial precinct. It is believed to have been either a public building or and edifice used by nobles or high priests. With an estimated 60 feet in height, this particular Maya Mount is believed to have been the focal point of other small mounts found in the area, marking the epicenter of the Maya settlement in Northern Belize. And while we may never know the secrets that lay beneath the layers of this edifice, what we do know is that a structure from the pre-classic period is being used as a quarry and the laws of Belize that protect all Archeological Sites, were violated.

Doctor John Morris- Archeological Department

“The primary legal aspect of this case here is going to rest on the destruction of an ancient Maya monument or ancient Maya building and that is one of the most, I would say one of the most stringent of the laws that we have as opposed to, let’s assume the buying and selling of an artifact, this is a destruction of a complete monument and that carries with it a large fine and prison term depending on the judge.”

And while we have heard of the elimination of other Archeological Sites, this time, history was destroyed in the worst manner.

Doctor John Morris- Archeological Department

“In this particular case from what I am looking at now, from what I am seeing there that is the entrance to a room which was part of the main temple out here and so it would have been a vaulted room it could have been perhaps a tomb of the elite or it could also just be a ceremonial room where they would conduct some of the rituals or so. This building  would have been somewhere about forty feet in height, like huge palace building or a huge temple, it would have had many rooms in there, it was a multi rooms layered so you would have rooms for people living and you would have also several tombs in there of the elite who would have lived here.  This is one of the worst I have seen in my entire 25 years of archaeology in Belize and there is very little that we can do to salvage what is out here today, it is an incredible display of ignorance, I am appalled I just don’t know what to say today at this particular moment.  The destruction seems to be quite devastating and I mean look at this machines it would destroy everything that it in there, I need to do further assessment on this because money wise I just don’t know what to say for ones I am at lost for words.”

But the demolishing of this mount did not only wipeout part of Belize’s History, it will also affect the Tourism Industry.

Doctor Allan Moore- Archeological Department

“I remember in the late 70’s and the early 90’s I was a part of the team that was doing the actual surveying of NOK MUL at that time, we were all looking at the information that it would further give an all prospects that this would give to the north and now I don’t know what it can do for the north in value of destruction that has taken place.  I was hoping that when I was driving up from the main San Juan road that I would not be this one but the closer I got I just could not believe and seeing all the trucks, this is an incredible destruction.”

Jules Vasquez – Channel 7 Reporter

“Explain the importance of this structure in the entire assessment of the pre-classic Maya in this region?”

Doctor Allan Moore- Archeological Department

“There are not many of them but what we are trying to do is to build the Maya civilization and it’s important for it chronology in terms of putting to data some of the evidence that we found here that would fall under pre-classic Maya that would give us evidence that hey some of the early Mayas that occupied Belize were first occupying San Juan area and as things evolved it could have been from NOK MUL, from Cuello other little satellites communities that would have sprung up in the northern area, so that we could have built on that history and we still are and we still will be building on the history but now that evidence lost is evidence gone we know there was a NOK MUL and that it has produce early evidence of settlement in the northern Belize area.”

According to the archeological department, the Ministry of Works for decades has been exploiting what the Mayas constructed centuries ago in order to obtain high quality material that is then used for land fill.

Doctor Allan Moore- Archeological Department

“We have always been there with the ministry of works to saying well hey please when you are out there looking for material, please don’t destroy the mounts we need the mount, we have had them telling us, and I can smile about this, other than white lime in northern Belize we don’t have that gravel you can imagine they are getting mixed material here and that makes good road fill, and I say leave those road fill in its entirety right there.”

Jules Vasquez – Channel 7 Reporter

“So, they throw this structure because it is such a good resource for gravel for the road fill?”

Doctor Allan Moore- Archeological Department

“The structure, the mount would give them a sort of that mixture of that rubble and that type of material they are looking for.  I know that the ministry of works always complain that it makes good road fill and that is why we’ve been behind them time and time again, as a matter of fact right now we are on an anti-looting campaign but I think we should extend this anti-looting to anti-destruction, we just signed an agreement with the U.S. government for the preservation and the restitution and the repatriation of artifacts if they are found.  We are not saying this was a looting, it was intentional done for looting , I think it is more for aggregates, for gravel, for fill but if anything comes out from this we don’t know what material, what artifacts, what cultural material would have been gotten out of this. Belize is 8,867 sq. miles of jungle , we are only about 16 personnel in the department and this is why we need our educational campaign but even without our educational campaign it has to be sustained, it has to be sustained because we need soldiers out there, we need people to helps us and I think who ever reported this has done a good job I will commend them because we can’t be in the Chikkibul and at the same time being at La Milpa and at the same time , we applaud whoever can help us it is our heritage, we all have to chip in and when things like this happen it affects all of us, the tourism dollar and the information.”

We understand that the destruction of the mount has been taking place for quite some time and that all the extracted material is used for the upgrading of streets and roads that fall under the constituency of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources, Honorable Gaspar Vega. Our sources tell us that the contract was awarded to De Mar’s Stone Company, owned by UDP political aspirant Denny Grijalva. Probably that is why most of the dump trucks transporting the material and this heavy machinery have the logo of De Mar’s Stone Company imprinted on them.

Of note is that we were still in the area when police arrived with a stop order to discontinue the excavation. According to Doctor John Moore the excavator will be impounded until a further investigation is carried out. All efforts to obtain an interview with Denny Grijalva or Javier Nunez, who is the person in charge of the project, proved futile. We understand that if any charges are being levied it will be upon the owner of the machinery and the owner of the property where the mount is located.


#464276 - 05/14/13 04:55 AM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Norman Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University who worked in Belizean research projects in the 1980s, wrote in an email that "bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize (the whole of the San Estevan centre has gone, both of the major pyramids at Louisville, other structures at Nohmul, many smaller sites), but this sounds like the biggest yet."

#464342 - 05/14/13 02:18 PM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
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from Mary Toy:

It’s also bad juju

“San Estevan was settled in the Preclassic Period and reached its greatest occupation levels in the Late Classic Period.

“Between the 1960s and the mid-1990s, much of San Estevan was mapped by archaeologists exploring the last incarnation of San Estevan as a Late Classic Period site.

“However, the focus of archaeological research on San Estavan abruptly changed in the late 1990s when bulldozers mining for limestone destroyed most of the Late Classic Period structures at San Estevan.

“(Ironically, the limestone mined from the San Estevan site and used in the construction of the Western Highway in Belize has caused many, many accidents and deaths due to the slickness of the limestone.)”

#464351 - 05/14/13 05:34 PM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
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#464418 - 05/15/13 03:49 PM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
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Word is that the owner of the company just flew back to the international airport from Guatemala and is on the way to Orange Walk.

#464421 - 05/15/13 04:42 PM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
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collyk Offline
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Beyond disgraceful.
Belize Wedding Photography

#464430 - 05/15/13 07:22 PM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Jan 2003
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SimonB Offline
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" In light of the public reaction to excavation on a private property between the villages of San Pablo and San Juan in the Orange Walk district, as the Managing Director of De’ Mar’s Stone Company, the entity currently occupying center stage in this matter, it is my duty and indeed my obligation to inform the public, at home and abroad, of the sequence of events leading to this unfortunate incident.

De’ Mar’s was recently contracted to undertake the construction and rehabilitation of roads in Douglas Village also in the Orange Walk district. My understanding is that a first site for the excavation of material was identified by the company Foreman. The Chairman of Douglas Village was reportedly not satisfied with the quality of the material and as such he obtained permission from a landowner to extract material from his property from which material has been excavated for well over a decade.

De’ Mar’s excavation on the site began at around 8:00 am on Thursday, May 9 and continued up to 5:00 pm that day. Operations resumed the following day when at around 10:30 am persons identifying themselves as officials from the National Institute of History and Culture (NICH) reportedly appeared on the site accompanied by a crew from an Orange Walk Town based television news station. The officials instructed the company Foreman to halt operations informing that the site is of archaeological interest.

I was contacted by the Foreman seeking further orders, I instructed the Foreman to immediately cease all operations and to shut down all the equipment including the excavator and trucks. The equipment was removed from the site at around 10:00 am the following day, Saturday, May 11.

Recognizing that the buck stops at my desk, I share the public’s concern and indeed condemnation at the unfolding of this very unfortunate incident. While I will be launching an internal investigation, I am committed to fully cooperate with the authorities in their investigation into this regrettable incident.

Denny Grijalva
De’ Mar’s Stone Company "

#465838 - 06/04/13 04:59 AM Re: No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple [Re: Marty]  
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The Mayan Mound Maulers

by Mr. Compton Fairweather.

The archaeological history of Belize over the last 200 years illustrates that “Mayan mound maulers” – a phrase coined by Dr. Norman Hammond of Boston University who worked in the ruins of Noh Mul and Santa Rita in the mid 1970’s – were in this country along with those who raped and pillaged our forest of its natural resources even before slavery was introduced to our shores. The most notorious of those who destroyed Mayan mounds was Dr. Thomas Gaan (1867-1938), an Irish medical doctor in Belize whose hobby was archaeology. His method was to use dynamite to open up mounds (he opened about 60 of them) in search of artifacts. He was not interested in documenting the history of the civilization that occupied them. Dr. Gaan loved to sketch the artifacts he found posing with some of them for photographs, many of these artifacts are at the Museum of Mankind at Burlington Gardens in London. He did extensive work at Santa Rita in the Corozal District, the ancient Mayan capital of which is now Quitana Roo during the classic period.

The renowned anthropologist, ethnographer and epigrapher, Sir J. Eric Thompson (1898-1975) who is credited with cracking the Mayan code and knew Dr. Gaan very well, wrote a piece entitled “Thomas Gaan in the Mayan Ruins” for the British Medical Journal of 28th June, 1975 in which he said, “On the other hand, if Gaan had not opened those mounds, looters would have done so, or the mounds would be bulldozed to supply road material or to level land for plantations, fates which have befallen so many archaeological sites in Belize and elsewhere.”

A little over a year ago, I wrote about Sir Eric Thompson and how the President of Guatemala refused to honor him with the Order of the Quetzal for all the research he did on the Maya in that country, because he was a British citizen. I also mentioned that I called Sir Eric at his home in Essex; we had a long discussion on the attached map of Belize which at that time caused a “crisis” when the map was “leaked” to us in the Freedom Committee. As a young man doing geological work along the old Northern Road, between Rockstone Pond all the way to Corozal, mostly on foot, I can recall seeing workers backing into road cuts exposing human bones and pieces of painted pottery.

Map referred above

According to Thompson, in the late 1800’s Mayan Indians used to grind up these pieces of painted and mix them with water as “a sovereign cure for unspecified ailments.” Dr. Gaan was not too happy with the competition by these doctors to his medical expertise.

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