Great Nat Geo article on Looting Maya artifacts

Excavation of the Los Arboles structure at XultĂșn uncovered numerous painted sculptures.

This is a great article on the National Geographic Daily News: Losing Maya Heritage to Looters.

One of the issues near and dear to my heart is cultural heritage. The theft of Maya antiquities is a massive problem in Central America and Mexico because there are literally thousands of temples and even major cities out in the remote jungle. As an archaeologist, I weep at the idea that these incredibly important artifacts are being torn from their context. It kills me to imagine looters blasting open burials with pick axes and hammers.

I’ve actually been to XultĂșn (the city featured in this article) since it’s not far over the Guatemala border from where I worked in Belize. When I went, I saw a few looters’ trenches but it sounds like it has been hit hard since then. Ugh.

But, I also appreciate how complex this issue is. Local economies are depressed and there is a source of money just buried out there in the ground. Is the information available from those antiquities really more important than the lives and stable income for modern people? I don’t think so.

Photograph by David Coventry, National Geographic/Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Gobierno de Guatemala

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