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Contractors destroy Mayan temple for road building materials

A construction firm in Belize has bulldozed one of the country’s most important Mayan temples.

Heavy plant, including diggers and backhoes, was used to systematically eat away at the 2,300-year old Noh Mul pyramid to expose limestone and gravel for use in road building.

University College London’s Institute of Archaeology professor Elizabeth Graham, an expert in Mayan culture, described the destruction of the temple in the north of the country as “unthinkable”.

“I have seen this kind of thing before and it’s mainly road builders; they want the limestone,” said Graham who has worked in Belize on and off for 40 years. “It’s a mixture of laziness and ignorance. It’s not as if limestone is in short supply, the whole north of Belize is a limestone shelf.”

Noh Mul, or Big Hill, is also the name of a wider settlement that is scattered over some 19km2. Home to 40,000 people between 500 and 250 BC, the settlement consists of about 80 separate buildings. The one believed to have been the hub of the complex and therefore its namesake.

“I can tell from the core that this is a very early structure; it could be pre-Classic which would make it even sadder,” said Graham.

The Noh Mul complex was supposed to be protected under Belize law, despite being sited on private land in the north of the country, like other pre-Hispanic ruins.

“It is protected, and people who build roads know that. I hope they get slammed for this,” said Graham.

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