Mayan Pyramid Destroyed: Why Did Builders In Belize Take Down A 2,300-Year-Old Pyramid?

on May 14, 2013 5:01 PM EDT

mayan pyramid destroyed
The Mayan Empire stretched from Mexico to modern day Guatemala and Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Pictured is the 100-foot tall Maya temple of Kukulkan, the heart of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, in southern Mexico. (Photo: Reuters)

An ancient Mayan pyramid in Belize was destroyed last week when builders dismantled the 100-foot-tall Mayan pyramid in order to use its material for street gravel.

The Daily Mail reports that a construction crew used bulldozers and diggers to shave away at the sides of the ancient Mayan pyramid, located in the middle of a privately-owned sugar cane field, and used the pyramid's rocks to fill in the road.

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"We can't salvaged what has happened out here," John Morris, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology, told 7 News Belize. "It is an incredible display of ignorance."

USA Today reports that a man wielding a machete threatened a news crew who stood by and watched as dump trucks removed rock and limestone from the temple.

"It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous," Jamie Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, told the AP. "These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness."

The 2,300-year-old Mayan temple was the main temple of Nohmul, a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula in modern day Belize. It sits on a complex of 10 plazas and two ceremonial clusters that encompass about 12 square miles in Belize's Orange Walk District, the country's second largest district. According to USA Today, the site was first discovered by Europeans in 1897. It is estimated that 40,000 people once lived there between 500 and 250 B.C.

According to Belizean law, all pre-Hispanic ruins, even those on private property, are protected by federal law.

This isn't the first time construction workers targeted Mayan ruins. "Bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize," Norman Hammond, a professor of archaeology at Boston University, told The Daily Mail.

A number of other structures at Nohmul have already succumbed to builders' bulldozers.

The Maya civilization, centered in the tropical lowlands of modern day Guatemala, was one of the most powerful indigenous empires of Mesoamerica. It covered much of the Yucatan Peninsula, stretching from southern Mexico to present day Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.

According to History, the Mayan Empire's influence peaked around the sixth century A.D. The Maya were skilled in agriculture, pottery, writing, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making and mathematics.

By the end of the 9th century, many of the Mayan cities were abandoned, and historians are perplexed as to why. A number of theories about the mysterious Mayan decline exist, including the idea that perhaps the Maya had exhausted all their environmental resources around them and could no longer support a large population.

Others believe that warring factions brought down the Mayan Empire.

Read more from iScience Times:

Mayan Temple Damaged During December 21 Apocalypse Party

Mayan Apocalypse 2012 Debunked: When Will The World Really End?

Alien-Like Skulls Found In Mexico: A Sign Of The Mayan Apocalypse 2012?

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