The 5 Worst Archaeological Destructions for 2013
While 2013 has seen a plethora of incredible archaeological discoveries and achievements, which will be showcased shortly, there are other events that have equally affected the archaeological world, which have revealed a darker side to humanity – these have included the decimation and destruction of a number of culturally rich and historically important sites. We believe it is also important to highlight these – to name and shame if you like – because it is only through shining a light on the darkness that we can see the terrible atrocities taking place in our world. Only then do we have a chance to change it.
A 100-foot pyramid in the Nomul complex, the most important Mayan site in Belize, was destroyed by builders who used the 2,300 year old ancient structure for road fill. The construction workers used bulldozers and diggers to claw away at the sides of the 100ft tall pyramid, leaving an isolated core of limestone cobbles at the centre. The Belize community-action group Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action called the destruction of the archaeological site 'an obscene example of disrespect for the environment and history'. Many called for such destruction to be treated as a major crime in which the people responsible for the damage are sent to jail. To date, nothing has been done.
Private construction companies destroyed pyramid El Paraiso, a 5,000-year-old ancient structure located near the river Chillon, several kilometres north of Lima in Peru. The archaeological site of El Paraiso is credited with the largest and oldest monumental architecture in Peru. It occupies an area of 50 hectares, held between 1500 and 3000 inhabitants, and required nearly 100,000 tons of rock to construct. Archaeologists date the site to the Late Pre-Ceramic Age (2000 - 3000 BC) and suggest that it was used as a religious and administrative centre before the rise of the Inca culture encountered by the Spanish conquistadors. Yet despite the cultural importance of El Paraiso, one of its pyramids measuring 20 feet in height was completely decimated – the structure was knocked down and later burned – by two private building companies named Compañía y Promotora Provelanz E.I.R.L and Alisol S.A.C Ambas
A section of the Cyrene necropolis, an extremely important historical site in Libya, was destroyed by local farmers in order to make way for new houses and shops. The Cyrene necropolis is an ancient Greek city in north-eastern Libya with UNESCO World Heritage status. It was one of the largest Greek cities in the Classical period and continued to be an important city under the Romans until it was badly damaged during an earthquake in AD 365. UNESCO has described Cyrene as “one of the most impressive complexes of ruins in the entire world.” The enormous complex, which dates back to about 700 BC, is approximately 10 kilometres in size and includes 1,200 burial vaults dug into the bedrock and thousands of individual sarcophagi that lie on the ground. Even though the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, local farmers have laid claim to certain parts of the necropolis and recently destroyed a two kilometre section with the help of excavators in order to make way for new houses. About 200 vaults and tombs were destroyed, as well as a section of a viaduct that dates back to approximately 200 A.D. Ancient artefacts were thrown into a nearby river as if they were mere rubbish.
A group of ‘invasores’ (invaders) took possession of two large tracts of land in the protected area of Nazca, destroying several groups of Nazca lines and geometric shapes with machinery and constructed a stone wall, divided the territory into lots, dumped equipment and vandalized the area. Located in the arid Peruvian coastal plain, some 400 km south of Lima, the geoglyphs of Nazca cover an incredible 450 km2. They are among archaeology's greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity. The geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometres long. According to locals, these kinds of ‘invasions’ have become common in the region. The latest invasion took place near Ica and cultural and archaeological authorities in the region are worried about further damage taking place as a result of the illegal occupation. However, the authorities failed to take appropriate action to evict the ‘invasores’.
The Bujang Valley, otherwise known as Lembah Bujang, is the richest archaeological site in the whole of Malaysia. Sprawling over an incredible 224 square kilometres, it is an ancient historical complex containing nearly 100 ancient tomb temples, called candi. Well, that was until this incredible site was destroyed by a developer and the candi were pulverised before they could be fully documented or unearthed. Tragically, this would not have happened had the Kedah state government responded to an application for Heritage status back in 2006. As always, it is the dollar that holds more weight.