Archaeologist says monitoring black market trade is difficult
The legacy of the Mayas is preserved in our local museums and at archaeological sites that were once stronghold Maya kingdoms. But since there aren’t enough people to excavate and to protect these sites, for decades looters have escaped with these historical artifacts. Occasionally our news teams encounter peddlers of ancient Maya history but Awe admits that black market sales are difficult to monitor.
“A few months ago, we accompanied the B.D.F. while they were blowing up a clandestine airstrip in Orange Walk, during that time we also found broken shards of Mayan artifacts in the area. is that an area that your department intends to explore?”
“Definitely. We make regular visits to different parts of the country and we know that the illegal trafficking in antiquities goes hand in hand with the illegal trafficking of drugs and other illegal substances. These guys that are moving drugs back and forth are very opportunistic and so any kind of looted artifacts will also go with the pile.”
“Following that story we received reports that there was looting of a Mayan sight by Salvadoran nationals who reside in nearby places such as Progresso. It’s ongoing; they are selling it to foreign nationals living in Belize. It seems that we need to act quickly.”
“You know, looting has been a big problem I guess from prehistoric times. For example if you look at Egypt, many pharaohs’ tombs were looted before the birth of Christ by other people in the area. So this is one of the biggest challenges that faces places like Belize and other developing countries. All you have to do is look at a map of Belize and know that we have thousands of archeological sites, yet the number of people you have trying to police this is so miniscule that it is impossible for us to try to guard all these sites constantly. You know it’s the same issue for instance with the looting of xate up in the Chiquibul or the other kinds of illegal activities. So it is an uphill battle but we don’t give up. It’s not one of those fights that we can say you throw in the towel; you just have to keep on guard and I think what is great with the repatriation of this artifact is that it shows the close relationships that we have been developing with the U.S. enforcement agencies and their willingness to work with us—not just confiscating objects that are taken into the country illegally, but also in their willingness to return them to the country of Belize.”