Nohmul is located in Belize
Location in Belize
Country Belize
Region Orange Walk District
Nearest town San Pablo
Culture Mayan
First occupied c. 350 BC to 250 AD
Period Construction 7th to 10th centuries
Abandoned after 10th century

Nohmul (or Noh Mul) is a [1] It is the most important Maya site in northern Belize.[2] The site included a large pyramid, about 17 meters (56 ft) tall,[3] built around 250 BC. Most of the pyramid was destroyed in May 2013 by contractors tearing it apart for rocks and gravel to use to fill roads, leaving only the core of the pyramid behind.


Nohmul was occupied initially during the Preclassic era of [1][4]

Nohmul excavation at Structure 8, in 1985.

The site is noted for its unusual layout, with the urban or ceremonial precinct spanning the crest of a limestone ridge overlooking the Hondo River, a permanent river that forms the modern border between Mexico and Belize.

It consists of two separate clusters of structures, an East Group and West Group, linked by a raised causeway, or sacbe.[4][5] The East Group is the larger and has been more extensively excavated.[4]

The site is 7 miles (11 km) north of Orange Walk Town in northern Belize. The site occupies about 12 square miles (31 km2) of land. The two groups of buildings have a total of ten plazas. Combined, these complexes include more than 80 separate structures. Most of them were constructed either in the Preclassic or Classic period, although there is evidence of additional building activity in the early Postclassic.[5] The site has had professional excavations by government-authorized archeological teams, including four field seasons in the 1980s by an American team.[4]

Built above the Hondo River to control the region's trade routes, the site was occupied for centuries. At its height, it was the seat of government for an area spanning approximately 8 square miles (21 km2).[6] Later pre-Columbian residents built structures of the northern Yucatán type over those erected in the Classic era. Some of these more recent constructions covered the front of older stairways. These newer constructions include one that resembles El Caracol, Chichen Itza in Chichén Itzá. These later constructions are evidence supporting the theory that outsiders from the Yucatán settled in Nohmul.[5]

2013 damage

On May 13, 2013, the largest structure at Nohmul was almost completely destroyed.[2] Contractors used excavators and bulldozers to remove large portions of the central pyramid for its gravel and limestone content to fill roads in nearby Douglas Village. Prior to the destruction, the pyramid had a footprint of approximately 50 by 52 meters and was approximately 17 meters tall.[1][3] More than 70% of the structure was destroyed, leaving only a small core of the center.[7] The heavy equipment belonged to D-Mar Construction, a company owned by UDP politician Denny Grijalva.[8] Although the structure was on privately owned land, by law, all pre-Columbian sites are under national government protection in Belize.

John Morris of the Belizean Institute of Archaeology said that the workers would have known that they were bulldozing Maya ruins as the tall structure was unmistakable.[9] Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, noted that the pyramid mound could not have been mistaken for a natural hill as the landscape is flat and the ruins were well-known.[10]

After a lengthy investigation, charges were levied on June 27, 2013, against four individuals: foreman Javier Nunez, excavator driver Emil Cruz, and the managing directors of D-Mar Construction, Denny and Emelda Grijalva.[11]

Similar destruction occurred at the nearby San Estevan site in 2005, as well as at many other ancient sites throughout Belize.[2] Professor Norman Hammond of Boston University, who worked on Belizean archaeological sites extensively during the 1980s, told the Associated Press that "bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize".[10]

See also

  • El Paraíso, a pyramid in Peru destroyed in 2013 by property developers


  1. ^ a b c "Nohmul". National Institute of Culture and History. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Jones, Patrick E.; Mark Stevenson (13 May 2013). "Mayan Nohmul Pyramid In Belize Destroyed By Bulldozer". Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Pyburn, Karen Anne (1988). The settlement of Nohmul: Development of a prehispanic Maya community in northern Belize (Thesis). University of Arizona. p. 63. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hammond et al. 1988, pp. 1–2.
  5. ^ a b c Kelly, Joyce (October 1996). Archaeological Guide to Northern Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. University of Oklahoma Press.  
  6. ^ Mahler, Richard (1999). Belize: Adventures in Nature (2nd ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Publishers Group West. p. 306.  
  7. ^ "Did Douglas Chairman Contribute To The Destruction Of Noh Mul?". CTV3 News. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Vasquez, Jules (10 May 2013). "No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Mayan Temple". 7 News Belize. Retrieved 10 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "Mayan pyramid bulldozed by Belize construction crew". BBC News. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Belizean government vows probe after road crew destroys Mayan pyramid". Fox News. Associated Press. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "Denny Grijalva Charged For Noh Mul Mauling". 7 News Belize. 27 June 2013. 

External links