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May 22, 2013

…And department stretched paper-thin

Attention is focused squarely on the Institute of Archaeology for the destruction of numerous Mayan sites. First it was Noh Mul in Orange Walk, which was pillaged to provide material for road-fill. And two weeks later, it was Chau Hiix, as land within the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and in the middle of that Mayan site was cleared and bulldozed for farming. Commissioner of Archeology says it’s a stressful time for a department which is already stretched paper-thin. Doctor Jaime Awe told Reporter, Mike Rudon, that the department has already visited the site and plans to do so again soon.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

A couple weeks ago the Institute of Archaeology was called to the site of Chau Hiix, where land had been cleared by a bulldozer, allegedly to be used for farming by a private owner.


Jaime Awe, Commissioner of Archaeology

Jaime Awe

“I know that Doctor Morris and Josue, one of our young archeologists, visited the site with the chairperson and when they got there, there was no fencing. We are supposed to do a return visit to Chau Hiix, but against, I keep saying our limited resources. Right now, Doctor Morris is up in Orange Walk and we only have one vehicle to do that kind of field work. My own vehicle I gave to two of the junior archeologists and they are out in northern Belize by Lamanai where there is some more land-clearing going on. And we are hoping that it is just again clearing bush. We have reports, yesterday I was behind Bullet Tree Falls. We have some reports of land-clearing and roads being opened in the south that we also need to investigate but sometimes we need to balance the demands on our time against the resources that we have.”


Commissioner of Archaeology Jaime Awe says that they found pottery scattered on the ground in the clearing, though no signs of any overt damage to the mounds.


Jaime Awe

“You will see some areas where some dirt had been pushed aside. They certainly investigated those to ensure that they weren’t mounds. Often when you are clearing land with a bulldozer, you would have a lot of debris. But our guys have indicated that they were not mounds. We also found some broken pottery strewn in different areas, particularly above mounds. That is not unusual. If you walked through the bush around any Mayan site you would find broken pottery; very much like fi you wondered around any neighborhood and today, you would find modern garbage. Vessels used to break and we would throw them out in their yard; very much like how people do today. So we did see broken pottery scattered around some of those rounds.”


With thousands of mounds all over the country, the Institute has had to formulate a policy for instances where they are located on private land.


Jaime Awe

“There are thousands of mounds around the country. all you need to do is drive wherever there is land clearing and you will see the mounds dotting the region. You go by Spanish Lookout you would see the same set of things. I am looking at areas with major deforestation. Or drive between Belmopan and San Ignacio, you will see mounds in every body’s yards. I would like to take you on a trip between here and San Ignacio where we could stop where people homes are right next to a prehistoric mound. So we can’t stop that. What we request however is that if there are any major mounds; if there are going to be any plowering and subsurface disturbances that you try to plow as best as you can around the biggest architecture. Sometimes the smaller house mounds, they do plow over them. And there is limited or minimum damage when that is done because usually most of the architecture is subsurface and it still allows us to go back in the future and do excavation of them.”


And the intention in this case is no different, as the Institute of Archaeology will be contacting the owner of the land inside the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary to establish protocol for collaboration in preservation.


Jaime Awe

“In many cases you know when we know of special sites of major significance. What we do is have meeting with landowners and say guess what in your property there is a site. I thing about two to three months ago to several land owners who have caves in the properties. And in some cases, they are using these caves for taking people to them. We said guess what, we are aware of them and you need to assist us with the protection of these sites and we will try to visit them as soon she gets through.”


The caretaker of the land we spoke to yesterday stated that they are also committed to the protection of the mounds. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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2 Responses for “…And department stretched paper-thin”

  1. Storm says:

    Being “stretched thin” is a poor excuse, because in this area, preservation of ancient indigenous sites and ruins, there are many international funds and organizations available to help.

    Morris and Awe need to get out of their offices, and solve the problems NOW or step aside so other people can get the job done.

    They remind me of Emperor Nero, who played his fiddle while Rome burned down.

  2. Corozaleño says:

    How come Fruta Bomba of papayas was allowed to flatten several Maya Ruins on the outskirts of San Joaquin Village in Corozal District.

    They brought in bulldozers and leveled the area.

    The owner of Fruta Bomba also took many artifacts back home to Florida in his private plane.

    He also pays below minimum wage and poisons the Belizean soil with dangerous chemicals.

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