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Ancient Archeological Sites That Were Destroyed By Stupid Humans

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Humans love to hear about ancient history, but they aren't always that great at preserving it. Here are some of the worst, most thoughtless, and just plain dumbest ways that humans have wrecked their own heritage.

The discoverer and destroyer of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s


Schliemann found Troy in 1871, but there were nine cities stacked on top of each other, so the inventive archaeologist found a new way to dig to the legendary city: using dynamite, which was invented only four years earlier by Alfred Nobel.

(via University of Texas)

Buddhas of Bamiyan (or Bamiwam), two standing Buddha statues carved into a cliff in central Afghanistan, built in 507 and 554. Destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban.


(via Phecda109, AP/Murad Sezer and the top image is by Majld Saeedi/Getty Images)

Tell Umm al-Aqarib, Iraq, shortly after the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003

After extensive, unchecked looting began during the mid-1990s, the Iraq State Board of Antiquities authorized excavation to preserve what remained at the site. Looting has continued since 2003. Gangs at the site are frequently armed.

In May, 2003, Professor MacGuire Gibson visited this region with Col. John Kessel, Italian Ambassador Piero Cordone and a miitary contingent in a Marine Sea Stallion helicopter. After touring the freshly-looted site Umma, Professor Gibson reported: "We went south over Umm al Aqarib, a nearby site also excavated by the Department. Here, men were working, but not as many as at Umma. The fresh damage we were viewing has been done only since the beginning of the war, when looters came out and drove the guards from the sites." – according to Cultural Property Training Resource Iraq.

(via Cultural Property Training Resource)

Vandalism by American soldiers in Iraq during the Iraq War (2003-)


Ruins of ancient Babylon at the foot of Saddam Hussein's former Summer palace, 2003

According to Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, June 2007:

"Hussaini confirmed a report two years ago by John Curtis, of the British Museum, on America's conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's great city of Babylon into the hanging gardens of Halliburton. This meant a 150-hectare camp for 2,000 troops. In the process the 2,500-year-old brick pavement to the Ishtar Gate was smashed by tanks and the gate itself damaged. The archaeology-rich subsoil was bulldozed to fill sandbags, and large areas covered in compacted gravel for helipads and car parks. Babylon is being rendered archaeologically barren.

Meanwhile the courtyard of the 10th-century caravanserai of Khan al-Raba was used by the Americans for exploding captured insurgent weapons. One blast demolished the ancient roofs and felled many of the walls. The place is now a ruin."


(via U.S. Navy)

Ten ancient tombs from the Six Dynasties (220-589) have been destroyed by excavation machines and bulldozers making way for an an IKEA store in Nanjing, China, 2007


According to Reuters:

City archaeologists told the newspaper the tombs might have been those of a wealthy family of the period as the workmanship was of high quality. The tombs were constructed of green bricks embroidered with ornate lotus patterns.

Archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum have asked the developers to halt construction while they research the site and collect the artifacts, the report said, but it was not clear whether the work had been stopped.

Under Chinese law, people or work units found destroying "ancient tombs" can be fined 50,000 to 500,000 yuan (about $6,600-$65,700) but the laws are weakly enforced, the newspaper said.

Developers would sometimes rather pay the fine than delay or cancel construction projects, it added.


(Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images)

Destruction at archaeologic sites on Dakar Rally, 2009, when it was run in Chile and Argentina instead of the usual places between Paris and Dakar


Explains The Art Newspaper:

According to the National Monuments Council’s report, four of the sites that sustained damage are in the region of Atacama and two are in the region of Coquimbo, around 500km north of Santiago. The report focused specifically on Pelican Creek, near the town of La Higuera in Coquimbo, where a team of council archaeologists discovered a pre-Columbian hunter-gatherer camp, half of which had been destroyed by the race. The vehicles destroyed stone implements such as knives, arrowheads, spear points and scrapers as well as fragments of ceramics and shells, human bones, and rock structures dating between 9000BC and 1500AD.

At the time the rally was held in January, Sergio Cortes, a local ranger and tour operator, told authorities that in the Tarapacá region south of Iquique, the Alto Yape geoglyphs and the remarkable dunes that preserve 18,000-year-old wind patterns had already been seriously damaged by 4WD tourist vehicles and off-road driving enthusiasts. The Atacama Desert’s 5,000 or more prehistoric geoglyphs are massive images depicting humans, animals and geometric patterns made from stones and pebbles on the flat desert, which mysteriously seem only to be properly legible when seen from the air.


(via Lonnie Haymes-Schwartz)

Destruction of the ancient site of El Hibeh, 180 miles south of Cairo, Egypt, between 2009 and 2012


Excavations of archeologists from U.C. Berkeley were ended in 2009 and returned three years later, but they found "hundreds of looters' pits, exposed tombs, destroyed walls, and even human remains, including remnants of dismembered mummies and strewn mummy wraps, littering the site like trash", according to Popular Archeology.


(via Save El Hibeh/Facebook and Google Earth 2009/2012)

Some archaeological treasures of Syria, damaged or destroyed during Civil War, (2011-) the 11th century mosque, large part of the old city of Aleppo and looting the ancient cities of Ebla and Apamea, among others.


Apamea, looted


Loots in bigger resolution

(via LiveScience)

One of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids, a 100 feet tall (30 m) from the 3th century BC at the Nohmul complex, destroyed by a construction company while digging for crushed rock for a road they were building, May 2013

(Photo by Jaime Awe/AP)

A 4,000 year old pyramid, destroyed in El Paraíso archeological site, one of the largest settlements from the Late Preceramic period near Lima, Peru, June 2013


One of the some pyramids (a 20 ft or 6 m tall) on the site was destroyed, but the police prevented at least three more from destruction.

(via Marcogg)

Some area of Antinoupolis were leveled by local residents, or bulldozed and reclaimed for agricultural use, Summer of 2013


According to Egypt Independent:

Moreover, [Monica Hanna, a researcher with the University of Humboldt in Berlin] said that Ministry of Antiquities has been unable to confront the destruction of Antinoupolis, which includes archeological finds dating from the pre-dynastic period, the Middle and Modern Kingdoms, and the Ptolemaic period.

The site became famous during the Roman era after Emperor Hadrian established a huge Roman-style city named Antonio Polis, filling it with theaters, temples, schools and other historical buildings. Many of the buildings were still standing during the French invasion of Egypt in the late 18th century, and scholars later wrote about it in the book “Description de l'Égypte.”

The city flourished after the age of Hadrian until the Antinoë region became one of the largest regions of Egypt and included most of Upper Egypt, starting from the South of Fayoum until Sohag, with Antinoupolis as its capital, which is now called Sheikh Abada.

The importance of the region continued during the Byzantine era. By the spread of Christianity, the city became home to a large diocese. It also remained important during the Islamic eras, as its name became Ansena.


(via Kristian Strutt)