Without question, one of the main reasons we know so little about ancient history is that it was destroyed. Connecting the dots between the few remaining fragments of history allow us to imagine the story of civilization. Geological records explain natural catastrophes, second hand historical accounts such as the writings of Plato describing Atlantis, sprinkle light dustings of possibility on what might otherwise be pure myth.
Conquest and assimilation is by far the biggest eradicator of history. Spanish friar, and later bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa is a perfect example. In 1549 Landa arrived in Mexico with the conquistadors. He set out to convert the native population and obliterate any evidence of their beliefs and culture. In 1561 he set a massive fire, burning the last remaining Maya documents detailing their history and knowledge of astronomy. In 1563 he returned to Spain to face trial for an “unauthorized” inquisition. When cleared of charges he returned in 1573 as bishop of Yucatan.
What little we know about ancient Mexico, Central, and South America is the result of painstaking excavation of archaeological sites. Despite the church’s campaign to obliterate ancient indigenous civilizations, great strides have been made in piecing together ancient pasts. Archaeological treasures all that remain of civilizations beyond our comprehension.
Then along come greedy, bonehead land developers. With no more regard than Landa, thinking only of their interests land developers near Lima, Peru demolished El Paraiso, a 5000 year old pyramid on one of the oldest archaeological sites in South America. In May a 2,300 year old pyramid in Belize fell to a bulldozer, ending up as fill for road construction.
Precious little remains of our ancient past. It defies conscience to see what we have, pulverized and turned into landfill.