There are plenty of good reasons for destroying the prized relics of an ancient culture, spite being chief among them. Or maybe that creepy tentacle-faced deity carving you found on a fishing trip has stained your tears black and made your girlfriend sterile, so it's time to smash it with a rock hammer.
But what about knocking down a 4,000-year-old palace because the city really needs two Rite Aids to maximize convenience? Or writing Twisted Metal 2 passwords down on the back of a Dead Sea Scroll because you ran out of Post-it notes? Because that sort of thing actually does go on. As proof, here are some of the worst reasons that priceless artifacts have ever been destroyed.
#6. Ancient Chinese Tombs Were Bulldozed to Build an IKEA
In 2007, construction workers in Nanjing, China, uncovered 10 intricately embroidered family tombs dating all the way back to the third century, and by "uncovered" we mean "bulldozed into eraser dust to make way for an IKEA outlet."
Apparently, no one in China has seen Poltergeist.
The tombs, each constructed of green brick and decorated with lavish engravings, were buried partially underground, until they had their tops shaved off like Dennis Hopper in Speed by a bunch of earth movers that were being used to develop the area to make sufficient room for rich people to buy terrible furniture from a brand new IKEA store. One tomb was drilled entirely through its center by an excavator, leaving half of a nearly 2,000-year-old coffin dangling from its ruined ancient walls like a dreamcatcher in a Chevy Avalanche. The priceless artifacts inside were either crushed into powder or left exposed in the dirt and rain to be stolen by relic traffickers.
Ostensibly, there are laws in place that are supposed to protect China's countless historical buildings from being robbed, damaged or flat-out razed by private individuals and billion-dollar corporations alike. However, China famously doesn't give one pent-up pretzel-twisted shit about anything that isn't "China's money," so those laws are enforced with a regularity that can be described at best as "selective" and at worst as "not at all."
"No, 'at worst' was that one official who kept insisting that he get to pee on everything first."
Besides, most companies are happy to just pay whatever fines they incur from smashing up irreplaceable history rather than halt production of whatever Walmart they're building atop the shattered stone memories of past dynasties. For instance, sections of China's Great Wall, which you may recognize as one of the most famous things ever built and the only man-made structure that can be seen from freaking space, were permissibly demolished to clear land for a factory, so you can imagine how much careful attention was given to 10 ancient corpse lockers full of people that no one has ever heard of.
Archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum tried to convince the Swedish furniture overlords to at least delay construction and allow them enough time to catalog the site and remove its contents. Needless to say, the IKEA branch opened right on time a year later.
"To be fair, we did give them an easy-to-follow book of instructions on how to go fuck themselves."
#5. A Fake Archaeologist Blows Up the Ancient City of Troy
Whether you're classy (read: friendless) enough to have read the Iliad or you just saw it adapted in that movie where Brad Pitt flexed a lot and didn't wear pants, you've probably at least heard of the ancient city of Troy. Nineteenth century German grifter and self-proclaimed "archaeologist" Heinrich Schliemann had also heard of Troy, and in his quest to discover the fabled city's ruins, he accidentally blew it the fuck up.
Wait, you mean this guy wasn't on the level? Balderdash.
Schliemann decided that he had found the ancient site of Troy in the modern-day Turkish city of Hisarlik. The problem was, Hisarlik actually consisted of no less than nine cities stacked one on top of another. This is often the case with ancient cities -- people come in, smash an old city to bits, and build a new one on top of it, sort of like Jenga, if you never cleaned it up and just bought a new set every time.
Schliemann was determined to dig through all of that bullshit until he found him some Trojan antiquity. So his team set to dynamiting through layers of history until he found what he declared to be King Priam's treasure -- jewels and artifacts nestled far beneath Hisarlik at the level he figured was the site of Troy. Schliemann and his wife then heroically smuggled the artifacts out of Turkey (see "grifter," above), because if Indiana Jones has taught us anything, it is that this is totally how archaeology works.
"Quit posing and get on the boat before someone sees you with that shit."
Except it turns out that the treasures Schliemann excavated (here meaning "stole") didn't come from Troy at all, at least not the Troy anyone gives a shit about. Schliemann's finds came from a city about a thousand years older than Troy, meaning that they were buried in a layer beneath the city of epic poem fame. So in the course of his frenzied excavation, Schliemann blasted right through Troy, scattering it across the hills around him like a cat burying a turd. His destruction of Troy was so thorough that actual archaeologists and antiquities professors are still complaining about it 140 years later.
#4. The Crusaders Melt Down Hundreds of Classical Greek Statues to Make Coins
During the Fourth Crusade in 1204 (not to be confused with the Last Crusade in 1989), an army of crusaders got sidetracked on their way to the Holy Land and wound up sacking the city of Constantinople, despite the fact that Constantinople was pretty emphatically Christian (sort of like if a battalion of American soldiers conquering Sandusky, Ohio, on their way to Iraq). This is because the crusaders were enormous shitheads, quite possibly the biggest of all time, and as such could not be expected to behave like rational human beings.
Constantinople had been the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire for oh, 900 years or so, and consequently the city was full of Greek and Roman art, including hundreds of ancient bronze statues of the gods and heroes of mythology. So the crusaders tore down every single one and melted all of that priceless antiquity to make goddamned coins. Presumably there was an ancient Donkey Kong machine that everybody wanted to play, or they needed exact change for the bus to the Holy Land. Targets of their cash converters party included giant statues of Hera and Helen, a mechanical pyramid that featured moving people and animals and a bronze Hercules the size of a Tyrannosaurus.
You basically destroyed ancient Disneyland. Thanks, dicks.
However, considering that the crusaders were staging an invasion across half of the known world with the explicit purpose of wiping out non-Christians and their culture, preserving metal statues of pagan deities was understandably not very high on their list. Also, bronze was particularly valuable at the time, so those statues were going to be broken apart and repurposed one way or another. Imagine a group of modern soldiers stumbling upon an ancient temple of some forgotten religion loaded with idols made of platinum and diamond -- those things would be dangling from chains and spinning on hubcaps by the end of the day.
We're not saying that the destruction was any less tragic or stupid -- we're just saying that, considering the circumstances, it was pretty much inevitable.
"We're here to wreck shit and spread the word of God. And we're all out of word."