A lesson from the past

The destruction of a pyramid in Peru is a reminder of how much of our precious heritage has been lost.

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One of the things that distinguishes humans from other species is our self-awareness, which includes understanding the concept of continuity. We know where we came from; we know how we got to where we are; and, to some degree, we know where we are going.

While we are surrounded by reminders of our past - including great works of art, relics and structures created by our ancestors - we are not always very good at respecting and preserving those objects or understanding what they tell us about ourselves.

In Peru last week, property developers demolished a six-metre-high, 4,000-year-old pyramid, and almost did the same to two similar monuments before members of the public intervened. Through ignorance or contempt, the demolition crew at El Paraiso, near Lima, "committed irreparable damage to a page of Peruvian history", as archaeologist Marco Guilen put it. Sadly, the story is not unique.

By way of negligence, vandalism or straight-out looting - as happened in Baghdad in 2003, or at the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo in January 2011 - the world has lost too much of its precious heritage.

Humans also have the capacity to learn from their mistakes, isn't it time we did?