An official of Peru’s federal Culture Ministry says two real estate development companies have destroyed a pyramid at the oldest archaeological site near the country’s capital.

Deputy Minister Rafael Varon said the companies used heavy equipment to tear down a 20-foot-tall pyramid at the ruins of El Paraiso, a few miles north of Lima.

He said Wednesday his agency has lodged criminal complaints against the two companies for the weekend’s damage.

Peru’s tourism ministry says El Paraiso was built some 4,000 years ago, long before the rise of the Inca culture.

Peru's pyramid destruction  follows a similar incident in Belize, where a construction company essentially destroyed one of the country's largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project.

The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said the destruction at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was detected late last week. The ceremonial center dates back at least 2,300 years 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," Awe said. "It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous."

Nohmul sat in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids. But Awe said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 100 feet tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well-known and the landscape there is naturally flat.

"These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness," Awe said.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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