Important Maya monument is savaged; U.D.P. political aspirant is responsible
There is huge public outrage over the reckless destruction of Noh Mul, one of the most important Mayan monuments in northern Belize. Noh Mul stood proudly ten miles north of Orange Walk; it was known as the Big Hill constructed over two thousand years ago. The site consisted of two twin ceremonial clusters surrounded by several plazas and connected by a central causeway. Tonight, only a small mound of rubble now stands where once the towering Mayan monument stood. Late last week, the structure was savaged by heavy equipment owned by contractor, Denny Grijalva, a U.D.P. political aspirant, purportedly for material to fill roads in a nearby community. Archaeologists who visited the site claimed that it was an appalling act of reckless destruction, and their outrage and dismay were still very much in evidence today. Mike Rudon has the story.
Dr. Jaime Awe, Director, Institute of Archaeology
“The site of Noh Mul is located in the vicinity of the villages of San Jose/San Pablo, just north of Orange Walk Town. That site has been known archeologically for more than fifty years. In fact, in the 1980s we had some archeological research that was conducted there by people from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom as well as some work that was done by a couple of archeologists who now work at Caracol, the Chases who were then at the University of Pennsylvania. The site had been surveyed, we have several reports in our offices about the site and in fact I think there might even be a PhD dissertation, thesis that was written on the site.”
Mike Rudon, Reporting
In fact, Director of Archaeology Jaime Awe says there is absolutely no way that anybody could have accidentally destroyed the monument, which stood almost eighty feet tall.
“Noh Mul was certainly an is certainly a well known site in Orange Walk. In fact, I don’t think any of the villagers in either San Pablo or San Jose, could say or would say that they are not familiar with this site. The destruction that occurred at Noh Mul was anything but accidental. I think that the people who went out there to start to destroy that temple, that pyramid, knew exactly what they were doing.”
Allan Moore, Archaeologist, NICH
“I don’t know what to say about that other than it is sad to see how people would devastate our cultural patrimony as that. And I can’t see why… it is not ignorance.”
ut ignorance or not, the mound is destroyed, and both Awe and Moore are outraged. They cannot comprehend how this could have happened, and say that nothing can ever replace what has been lost.
“The experience of having to see the images of the destruction at Noh Mul is in many ways probably one of the worse set of blows I have felt philosophically and professionally in that regard because what happened there is both deplorable and unforgivable. When one sees the heritage of our country being purposely destroyed for no good reason and particularly when people like myself or the other archeologists at NICH have spent our careers trying to protect and preserve this archeological heritage; to see it destroyed like that it is like when the boxer throws in the towel at the ring.”
“What kind of damage has been done at the site?”
“Irreversible. I mean you can’t even quantify it. Culture is not about money. Your patrimony is not about money. It is the value of your identity; it is the value of your Belizean-ness in you. It is the value of having that affinity to a past. That’s what makes Belizeans, Belizeans. It’s the passion; we know where we come from, we have a common root and the wholesomeness of culture. You can’t sell culture, you can’t buy culture; it is within you. And that is priceless as far as I am concerned.”
“I’m going out to site on Wednesday and we are hoping to look at it and see if there is anything at all that we will be able to recover from the amount of stuff that has been destroyed there. I’m hoping that there will be bits and pieces that we can acquire from any kind of work that we do there. But to say that we can try to preserve the building anymore; that is impossible.”
The site is located on private land, but these men who have given their lives to preserving our rich history say that doesn’t matter, or make what has been done right or legal.
“We have been informed that the owner of D-Mars is Mister Grijalva. What we then discussed is that the archeologists will go into the police station; take the police there so that they could record the damage with the full intention that we will take this matter to court. And so the next step is that the police are getting some more information on who is responsible, who the land owner is and the purpose of that is to seek that this matter goes to court. And the reason is that it is against the law; it is against the nature act to willfully destroy an ancient monument. And the denature act. Any willful destruction of an ancient site or monument has penalties of ten years imprisonment or ten thousand dollars for this kind of destruction. So the matter will go to court and hopefully that litigation will come through.”
“It doesn’t matter who owns the property. Though shall not touch the mounds that are on your property. It is for the people and government of Belize. We as the Institute of Archeology are trustees; the people put that as trustees for us to protect. Just as the police; the people trust them to put law and order, people put we as archeologists to govern and to manage these sites for all of us—for the people of Belize, for Belize.”
“I see you come up with an eleventh commandment there just now.”
“Yes, I have to do it. I feel passionate about it. And I’m not too happy about it. I’m not too happy.”
And to make an already deplorable situation worse, Awe says the damage to the site will make it near impossible to get grants from donors to preserve other sites, when our very own people are destroying them. Mike Rudon for News Five.