An ancient Mayan residential complex some 2,300 years old was destroyed by heavy machinery in the southeastern Mexican state of Yucutan to clear the land for pasture on a private ranch, officials told Efe.
According to experts at the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, the Maya site near the town of Chicxulub dates to the 300 B.C. Preclassical Period and is registered as No. 15 in the Yucutan archaeological catalog.
"The presence of remains were previously known in the area and for that reason INAH will act quickly," the communications chief of the public institute, Julio Castrejon, said.
He also said that, as a first step, the national coordinating team for judicial and archaeological matters went to the Yucatan on Thursday to prepare a technical appraisal of the presumed damages.
A previous inspection carried out Wednesday by archaeologists Angel Gongora and Victor Castillo determined that the ancient Mayan settlement covering 1 square kilometer (250 acres) suffered "irreversible" damage because the nucleus of the settlement was directly affected, the daily Reforma said Thursday.
"If that is so, the loss is total and irreparable," Gongora said.
Both experts said that among the rubble left by the earthmoving equipment they found the remains of walls, roofs and stairways, and a block from a cylindrical column believed to form part of the portico of one of the buildings.
Also toppled and cleared away were seven structures and two altars that stood in the main square. The largest building was more than 3 meters (10 feet) tall.
Though at first the owner of the premises, Ricardo Ascencio Maldonado, denied what had happened, he later admitted that the work was done to level the ground for pastureland, the reason he used heavy earthmoving machinery, the newspaper said.
He said that he bought the land three months ago and no one ever told him it was an archaeological site, in spite of which INAH has summoned him to testify before its attorneys to get to the bottom of what happened.
"Our duty is to protect the nation's cultural heritage and we will act according to that principle," Castrejon said.
Fox News Latino. 2010. "2,300-Year-old Maya ruins destroyed for pastureland". Fox News Latino. Posted: December 3, 2010. Available online: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/entertainment/2010/12/03/year-old-maya-ruins-destroyed-pastureland/