One of the biggest Mayan pyramids in Belize has been destroyed by a construction company looking for gravel.
The Noh Mul temple is estimated to be at least 2,300 years old and is the most important site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico.
"It's a feeling of incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity... they were using this for road fill," said Jaime Awe, head of the Belizean Institute of Archaeology. "It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous."
The temple is on private land but under Belizean law, any pre-Hispanic ruins are officially protected by the government.
Only a small core of the pyramid was left standing.
Awe said the pyramid was about 30 metres (100 feet) tall, it was well-known, and the landscape in the area is flat, so he said there's no way the workers could have done this by accident.
"These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness," Awe told the Associated Press.
"Just to realize that the ancient Maya acquired all this building material to erect these buildings, using nothing more than stone tools and quarried the stone, and carried this material on their heads, using tump lines," he said.
"To think that today we have modern equipment, that you can go and excavate in a quarry anywhere, but that this company would completely disregard that and completely destroyed this building. Why can't these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It's mind-boggling."
A community action group in Belize called 'Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action' called the destruction of the pyramid "an obscene example of disrespect for the environment and history."
Police stopped the excavation and said they're investigating, while prosecutors said they were considering laying criminal charges against the construction company.
According to USA Today, the company owner, Denny Grijalva told a local TV station "he knew nothing about the project" and directed reporters to his foreman. Neither answered any follow-up questions.
This is not the first time this has happened in Belize, which has hundreds of Maya ruins.
"Bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize," said Normand Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University who worked in Belizean research projects in the 1980s.
And it's said to be happening in other countries where the ancient Maya lived, including Mexico Guatemala, and Honduras.
"I don't think I am exaggerating if I say that every day a Maya mound is being destroyed for construction in one of the countries where the Maya lived," Francisco Estrada-Belli, a professor at Tulane University's Anthropology Department, told AP.
"Unfortunately, this destruction of our heritage is irreversible but many don't take it seriously. The only way to stop it is by showing that it is a major crime and people can and will go to jail for it."
The pyramid was first recorded by Europeans in 1897. It's believed about 40,000 people lived in the area between 500 and 250 BC.