Dr John Morris comments on Belmopan Maya site

vlcsnap-2013-05-15-19h55m41s121Last night, we brought you the story of an ancient Mayan civilization in the Capital City, which now sits under private development. This is a little known fact, but was brought to our attention by former Mayor of Belmopan, Anthony Chanona. He brought us a letter, written by him, addressed to Dr. John Morris, of the Institute of Archeology. That letter detailed Chanona’s unease with two parcels of land that were previously set apart as “Special Develop Areas” after Mayan mounds and grave sites were discovered. City Hall, at that time, under the management of Chanona, planned to preserve the area and develop it as a tourism site. They had brokered an investment deal vlcsnap-2013-05-15-19h55m01s233with  Mountain View Park Limited to carry out the works. Well, that project didn’t materialize under Chanona’s administration, or the  administration that followed. That is because after new management of the City Hall and RECONDEV took over in 2012, the land was bought back from the investors and sold to private developers. Still, guidelines set out by the Department of Archeology were expected to be adhered to on how to develop a Special Develop Area. Those guidelines called for an environmental impact assessment, no mechanization on the land and development plans ought to have been submitted to the proper agencies to guarantee the policing of development. But those guidelines were not effectively followed. When we sat down with Chanona yesterday, he stated that he informed the Institute of Archeology of these happenings in his letter, but never received a formal response and private development in the area continued. Yesterday we tried reaching Dr. Morris, but he was out at Noh Mul. There, our news team caught up with him and pressed him on the matter. But, Morris said, his department did make attempts to conserve the area, however, there was only so much they could have done.

Dr John Morris – Institute of Archaeology:
vlcsnap-2013-05-16-19h36m45s84Let me say that the Institute of Archaeology [doesn’t] own any of the lands, unless the land is Crown Land, meaning that it’s owned by the Government, can we take any real action.  In that case it was a private property.  The Lands Department are the ones who grant the permission for sub-division.  They are the ones that grant the permission for any activity that is going to take place.  Even though we had written the Lands Department, saying that this area has a number of Mayan mounds and we have done an inspection of this area, and that if there’s any sub-division to be done, we need to be informed as to how the sub-division is going to take place. We don’t stop anyone from sub-dividing the lands, but if you’re going to sub-divide and say this mound is going to be cut in half, then there’s something wrong with that. We had written them about it, and even the Land Information Centre which prepares the maps, they were aware of that, and we were told they would leave a green space, which is a green area for the mounds.

Those Mayan mounds, believed to hold the bones of the King and Queen of that empire, is now located within a fenced property, bound by “No Entry” signs, only to be admired from afar. Those mounds Morris told us, were almost completely destroyed by developers.

Dr John Morris – Institute of Archaeology:
vlcsnap-2013-05-15-19h55m13s91Subsequently I want out there a couple of weeks after the former Mayor had called me, and the bulldozer, when it was cutting a road, had cut a portion just near the mound and cut the side of the mound.  I had stopped the bulldozer from operating.  I think the bulldozer operator was not been aware that the mound extended beyond where the mound was.  So he stopped putting in the road.  So that is as far as we are at now. But we’ve written them about the sub-division of these lands, and in fact anywhere in Belize. Once you buy an acreage of land, Land Information Centre will tell you if there are any mounds or anything, you need to inform the Institute of Archaeology, because they’re not yours.

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