Chalillo Dam

Mayan world to be destroyed

Meb Cutlack
Belize Reporter
February 25, 2005
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 completed and

According to 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 very high density and is
consistent with heavy settlement in other river valleys in Belize."

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

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 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.

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 its 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 shards, 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 equalled
by my disbelief that the people of Belize will allow [Prime Minister
Said] Musa and [Minister of Finance Ralph] Fonseca to fool them yet
again with their glib confidence trick that Chalillo will lead to cheap

Think about it. Did BTL (Belize Telecommunications, Ltd.) lead to cheap
communications? Did BWS (Belize Water Services) lead to cheap water?

Categories: Chalillo Dam

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