China is using the Olympics as the steamroller for a vast array of infrastructural developments that just happen to also be destroying a lot of artifacts. If Rome is the best place to currently ponder the eternal battle between Archaeology and the Art Market, then China is the best place consider the nexus of Urban Development, Cultural Destruction, and Wholesale Tomb Raiding.
Across China, the same story is repeated of massive projects unearthing fascinating finds, but only cherry-picking looters seem to get access before the relentless force of progress entombs it in concrete so they can build a skeet-shooting pavilion…or something. The story, reported in the IHT, bears eerie resemblance to the testimony of an Italian Archaeologist/Looter, Pietro Casasanta, who stated at the ongoing trial of Marion “Tomb Raider” True:
mostly he defended his profession, claiming that through his nighttime forays, thousands of works of art were saved from potential destruction by future urban development. “If it weren’t for tomb robbers, people wouldn’t be seeing vases in museums,” he said. “I deserve to be nominated as a lifetime senator for the cultural pleasure I have allowed people to have.”
But with so much fresh authentic loot entering the Chinese art market, the concern on everyone’s mind is: will this disastrously undercut the thriving market in fakes?