Today, there was no quarry work at the Mayan site of Noh Mul in the Orange Walk District. Police have shut it down, and the D-Mars, the company, which was extracting aggregates or road fill, has withdrawn from the area.
And while the work has stopped, it’s too late. Dr. Jaime Awe, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology today told us that from what he has seen in the report compiled by his Archaeologists, the site is completely destroyed.
Dr. Jaime Awe - Director, Institute of Archaeology
"Jules, the destruction is horrendous, its deplorable, its unforgivable. I had hoped that I could have gone in and find something that was salvageable. That we can go in and do repairs to the damages so that we could preserve some aspect of the ancient building. I completely regret that I have to say this - I think that 80% or more of this building is destroyed . There is simply no way or no hope that we could attempt any kind of preservation on this. The only thing left now is to watch the last bit of it crumble with the coming of the rainy season or to go in there and try to salvage the parts that remain that are scattered all over the site.”
Awe additionally told us that the Institute Of Archaeology is preparing a report, which will be submitted to police for investigation and prosecution.
Dr. Jaime Awe
“I firmly believe it is important that we seek legal action otherwise we are sending a message that it is not important to preserve this heritage. A report that is being prepared by Dr. Morris is that the normal line of action is that this report gets sent to the Police Department in Orange Walk with a request from the Institute of Archaeology and that the police lay the ground works for charges to be made against those that are held responsible. In this case charges against the construction company for willfully destroying an ancient monument and the land owner who have had to be given permission for the company to access the property and then allow the destruction to take place.”
“The offending company and who is responsible for this is owned by a member who is in the ruling party.”
Dr. Jaime Awe
“To me this isn’t a case to get one party or the other. If this person was under a PUP or a UDP administration I would have had the same reaction at this moment because in my eyes I work for the people of Belize and I have been interested with the protection and the preservation of the Archaeological Heritage of this country and that will always remain first and foremost as my goal.”
As we mentioned on Friday – the principal of D-Mar’s is known to be Denny Grijalva, UDP aspirant for Orange Walk Central. On Friday he claimed complete ignorance of the goings-on and referred us to his foreman, who did not show up to meet with the media and the NICH Archaeologists. Grijlava did tell us on the phone that his foreman would apologize for his company and the Deputy Prime Minister – in whose division, Orange Walk North the fill was reportedly being used. Grijalva did not return our calls today.
Today the Northern Caucus of the Opposition PUP sent out a statement saying it, quote, “strongly condemns the destruction and plundering of the ancient Maya Temple, Noh Mul, and calls on the government to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that the full extent of the law is applied.”
COLA also sent out a statement saying, it is quote, “an obscene example of disrespect…(and)wanton destruction and sacrilege.”
The story has been picked up by FOX News, the Huffington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times.
And while it’s making major headlines now, historical context is always important. We checked back into our archives, and in August 1998, a UDP aspirant in Orange Walk North was caught up in the same situation – using one of the Noh Mul Mounds for road fill. The man at the center of the controversy then was Fred Martinez – and he and his contractor spoke to 7News.
(August 1998 Archives)
Fred Martinez – 1998 UDP – Polictical Aspirant (O.W North)
“Very shocking that it should occur”
Mr. Pott – Contractor
“I, myself have never gone in there knowing that it’s a Maya Ruin. I don’t know if it’s a Maya Ruin or it’s just a mound.”
“How do we stop this from occurring again? If the archaeologist would like to designated these I think they better put out some clear demarcation so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Again, that was from 1998 – since then, nothing has been done and the various Noh Mul structures remain overgrown. And while that mound was a part of the Noh Mul site – it was a different, much smaller mound. The one destroyed this time is described as the main ceremonial temple.