Vandals Have Carved Initials on a World-Famous Maya Temple
A shocking case of vandalism has been revealed in Guatemala. Two men, believed to be tourists, etched some graffiti on one of the most remarkable Maya temples in all of Central America. They were caught carving letters onto the famous Tikal Temple II pyramid. This case has raised concerns about the behavior of tourists and if the Guatemalan government is doing enough to preserve the site.
The act of vandalism happened at the world-renowned Tikal archaeological site which is located in a National Park. This was once an ancient city that was the capital of a powerful Maya state. It is situated not far from the city of Flores in northern Guatemalan. Tikal flourished during several centuries, from the 4th to 9th century AD, but was later abandoned, possibly because of a drought.
For many centuries the city was overgrown by jungle and it was only rediscovered in the 19th century. Tikal was granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and ‘National Geographic voted Tikal National Park as a must-do trip in 2020,’ reports The Daily Mirror.
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Caught in the Act of Vandalism
Vinicio Alba Ruiz is a local environmentalist and ‘appears to work for the ancient site,’ reports The Daily Mirror. As he was passing the 1300-year-old Tikal II temple pyramid, he was stunned at what he saw - two male tourists who were carving letters onto the limestone rock of the temple.
Alba Ruiz asked them what they were doing and told them bluntly what they were doing was wrong. Apparently, the men did not take it well and seemed surprised that what they were doing was wrong in any way.
The identity of the men is not known, but they appear to be middle-aged and are possibly foreigners. They were scratching what appears to be A + T on the historic landmark and it is possible that these letters may be their initials. Images of one of the men etching the letters on the stone have been placed on social media platforms.
The initials scratched into the 1,300-year-old Maya temple. (Vinicio Alba Ruiz)
Alba Ruiz posted on Facebook ‘If you come to this site you have to respect the rules. They do not need further explanation, it is common sense’. Many people have expressed shock at the actions of the man and have praised Alba Ruiz for confronting the duo.
The Tikal Temple II Step Pyramid
The vandals were defacing one of the great temples of the pre-Columbian period. Tikal Temple II is a step pyramid with a flat top with a shrine. This structure is about 125 feet high (40 meters) and there is a stairway on each side of the pyramid. It was possibly used for religious ceremonies and it overlooks the main plaza in Tikal.
Tikal Temple II. (MrPanyGoff/CC BY 2.0)
Demands to Protect the Maya Temple
The Daily Mail quoted Alba Ruiz, as saying that ‘We need to recruit more staff to look after our heritage.’ There is a feeling that the Guatemalan government is not doing all it can to protect Tikal and other Maya sites. This is despite the fact that they are critical for the country’s tourism sector. Moreover, Tikal and other ruins are very important for the descendants of the Maya - who make up roughly half of the population of Guatemala.
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The Guatemalan Tourist Industry representative body complained about the vandalism and urged the Public Ministry of Culture and Sport, to ‘hold the tourists accountable for the damage,’ reports The Daily Mail. The Ministry can impose fines of between $12,000 and $111,000 for damaging a historic monument. In theory, those who damage ancient sites could be incarcerated for up to nine years.
Tikal and other ruins are very important for the descendants of the Maya - who make up roughly half of the population of Guatemala. (El Puerto Informa)
It is not known if there is even an investigation into the incident. There are some who fear that the tourists may not be prosecuted. One social media user was concerned that if the tourists complain that Alba Ruiz could lose his position at the Tikal Archaeological Park. This person apparently believes that the local authorities are more concerned with tourist dollars than preserving the heritage of Guatemala.
Top image: Vandals carved graffiti into a famous Maya temple, the Tikal Temple II pyramid in Guatemala. Source: Simon Dannhauer /Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan