|The destruction of the ancient Mayan site of Nohmul can be seen |
as an example of “heritage distancing.”
Photo courtesy of CTV3 Belize News.
Views from the ANThill
by Claire Novotny & douglas reeser on May 27, 2013The bulldozing and destruction of the ancient Maya site at Nohmul, in the Orange Walk district of northern Belize, has recently received widespread international attention. The largest structure of the ancient ceremonial center was reduced to rubble for use as road-fill by a local contracting company, a widely condemned act that will likely result in minimal consequences for the perpetrators. This incident, and others like it, are examples of the vulnerability of major historical sites, demonstrates the importance of the archaeological landscape for communities, and brings up issues of cultural heritage and engaged anthropology.
Nohmul was a medium-sized city founded in the Middle Preclassic period (650 BC – 350 BC). Interestingly, its fortunes waned during the Early Classic period (AD 100 – 250), when it was all but abandoned, only to be re-occupied during the Terminal Classic (AD 900 – 1000), when ties to the Yucatan peninsula are evident in its architecture and ceramic assemblage. Nohmul is one example of Maya longevity, memory, and re-use of important sites. When they re-occupied it in the Terminal Classic is was already an ancient place – at least 1000 years old. Nohmul has been a marker of place, history, and ancestral heritage for more than 2,000 years (see Hammond et al.).