February, 2005

Mayan World to be Destroyed

Belize Reporter

 by Meb Cutlack

Column 342 Chalillo archaeology

A closely guarded and secret archaeological survey of the Chalillo dam site reveals that hundreds of Mayan structures, many unique in the Mayan world, will be totally destroyed and gone forever when the ill conceived  Chalillo dam is competed and filled.

Here is a section from the 2003/2004 archaeology report which has been leaked to me from Belmopan: "A total of 298 structures have been identified in the project area.  This is a very high density and is consistent with heavy settlement in other river valleys in Belize.?E

The destruction of these temples and structures is akin to blasting a gigantic hole in Mesa American Indian history, which can never be recovered, and dealing a crippling blow to Belize`s present and future tourism prospects as word of this outrage reaches the outside world.

BEL and Fortis  have always  glibly said that the Mayan sites along 17 square kilometes area of reservoir on the Macal and Raspaculo River, which is to be flooded to make the Chalillo dam, are insignificant.

In their feasibility study they said, "all archaeological sites located were photographed, surveyed and recorded. The analysis of the vegetation, soil and topography maps indicated  that archaeological sites were limited to the following categories: minor Maya  centres, quarry  and lithic sites, sparse settlement  areas and possible cave formations.?"

However, the suppressed  report states: "Four sites detailed are specifically referred to as requiring excavation.  Garapata, Bejuco, and Peligroso are classified as Large Plazuela sites.  Rubber Camp is a multiple plaza site and is  comparable to a medium-size center."

Then:"Eight (8) additional Large Plazuelas and 3 additional multiple plaza sites were identified.  The multiple plaza sites are of particular archaeological significance, however, the current scope of the project and available funding make further investigations of these sites prohibitive.  Bajo de Lago is of great interest due to its monumental architecture, size and proximity to the Macal.

Without doubt this center is at the top of the hierarchy of sites in the Macal Valley.  However, all four of the multiple plaza sites are grouped together suggesting that perhaps they shared this influence.


The large plazuelas, plazuelas, and isolated structures are dispersed relatively evenly throughout the valley.  This suggests that were purposely located in such a way to best utilize available local resources.  The multiple plaza sites likely represent centers that exerted some level of control over the more dispersed settlements.  This may explain their larger size and location across the valley.?E


The  survey, carried out for BEL and Fortis between June 2003 and March 2004 by the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Macal River Project under Archaeologists Douglas Weinberg and Jaime Awe,  also unearthed numerous burial sites, and these and possibly hundreds of other burial sites will also will be flooded  and lost forever if the dam goes ahead. 

In the same manner in which BEL and Fortis tried to cover up all their geological mistakes to forge ahead with the dam, they are now attempting to delay and suppress this report, gloss over it`s findings and get the dam completed and filled before the Belizean public can protest.


The flooding of this crucially important archaeological area is in fact a crime about to happen. Under Belizean law, and the "Ancient Monuments and Antiquities Ordinance to proceed to flood the

Chalillo Dam - prior to much more intensive mitigation studies, which include the possibility of actually removing some sites  to another location  is illegal if carried out without the permission of the Archaeological Commissioner.   It would be a very brave or very foolish archaeological commissioner who gave that permission.

In one of the many burials, according to the report: "Artifacts recovered included a number of ceramic sherds, 3 pieces of worked slate, 4 mano fragments, 1 metate fragment, a number of quartz crystals and a green obsidian blade fragment.  The only known source of green obsidian in Mesoamerica is located north of Mexico City, thus this find is an important indicator of long distance trade.

The report concludes: "To assure a complete understanding of the project area, further survey including data collection on structures, sites, and features in the project area should be continued.

This includes the areas on the Raspaculo and Upper Macal branches previously un-reconnaissanced.  Minimally, this will entail 3 more months of survey operations as the terrain is difficult and bushy, and long distances are involved.  Additional focus should be given to the areas containing agricultural terracing as study of these features allows for greater insight into land usage patterns.?"

And, "Efforts should be continued to mitigate and excavate as much of the archaeological remains in the project area as possible.  Only a small percent of possible investigations have been carried out to date.

Though our season accomplished much, our primary focus was on structures and sites identified in Thompson and Woodyers preliminary survey, which defines an incomplete sample.  According to the Terms of Reference for the Environmental Compliance Plan we have mitigated almost two thirds of the archaeology specified for excavation.  However, Season 1 survey revealed there to be almost 1000% more large sites in the project area than specified.  Investigations have yet to focus on isolated structures or multiple plaza sites, which are arguably the most important remains present.  Season 2 investigations should focus on the sites of Ramonal, Rubber Camp, Bajo de Lago, and should also encompass some isolated structures.

 This of course is not what Fortis and BEL want. It will cost them more money and more delay in their now over-expensive folly, which should never have been started in the first  place.  It is yet another unbearable financial load, headed for the shoulders of Belizean citizens, that they and their children must carry for the next 50 years.


My feelings of rage, against this brutal and senseless assault against the history of the original inhabitants of Belize of death by drowning, before further research can be carried out, is only be equalled by  my disbelieve that  the people of Belize will allow  Mr. Musa and Mr. Fonseca to fool them yet again with their glib confidence trick that Chalillo will lead to cheap electricity. 

Think about it! Did BTL lead to cheap communications?

Did BWS lead to cheap water?

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