Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Landowner 'allowed pyramid work'

A backhoe claws away at the sloping sides of the Nohmul complex, one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids (AP)

The owner of a road-building company in Belize that has been blamed for the near destruction of one of the country's biggest Mayan pyramids has said the landowner gave permission to extract the material.

Businessman Denny Grijalva said the landowner had allowed excavations on his property for more than a decade.

Archaeologists in Belize and around the world expressed outrage at the demolition of the Nohmul complex in northern Belize to extract crushed rock.

Nohmul sat in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids.

The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 100 feet tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well-known and the landscape there is naturally flat.

Mr Grijalva said in a statement that the foreman at his De' Mar's Stone Company picked the pyramid mound for digging out rock after the chairman of Douglas Village, where his company was building and repairing roads, did not like the material they first showed him.

Workers excavated all day last Thursday, Mr Grijalva said. They stopped digging the next day after several officials from the National Institute of History and Culture instructed them to stop, he added.

"Recognising that the buck stops at my desk, I share the public's concern and indeed condemnation at the unfolding of this very unfortunate incident," he said. "I am committed to fully co-operate with the authorities in their investigation into this regrettable incident."

Police have launched an investigation and anyone found responsible could face five to 10 years in prison, a fine of about 5,000 US dollars (£3,270) or both.

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