By Stanley Guenter

The tragic tale of looters destroying the monuments of the Pasion region continues. The most recent victims are two of the most beautiful stelae of Dos Pilas, Stelae 14 and 15, both portraying the Late Classic king, Itzamnaaj K'awiil (ruled 697-726).

These monuments are found on the Duende pyramid east of the site center. Their remote location, half a kilometer from the IDAEH guard station, makes them vulnerable to clandestine activities.

According to the guards, the damage to Stelae 14 and 15 occurred on the 12th of December, 2003. The base of Stela 14 was cut off, in an attempt to loot the figure of a captive, once standing beneath the king.

The looters used both saws and chisels, badly damaging the dwarf and cormorant figures and the feet of Itzamnaaj K'awiil in the process. The sawn-off basal panel with the captive was not hauled off, probably due to its size. It was recovered by guards and is currently in a secure location.

The damage to Stela 14 was also carried out by saw and chisel. The target on this monument was the k'awiil figure held by the king. This fragment was not recovered and was presumably hauled off by the looters. In order to remove the k'awiil figure, however, significant damage occurred to the hand and face of Itzamnaaj K'awiil.

The saddest part of this recent looting is the uselessness of it. These monuments are well documented and no serious collector will have anything to do with them, let alone purchase them. Thus, the looters will find a very hard time finding anyone willing to pay the kind of money they are expecting for this piece. Most tragically, their greed has horribly disfigured two of the most beautiful examples of ancient American art, highlighting once again the vulnerable state of many Maya monuments.

(click for zoom and caption)

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