Atlantic Cities

Future Ai Weiwei Commentary of the Day: 3000-Year-Old Tombs Mistakenly Bulldozed in Guangzhou

Future Ai Weiwei Commentary of the Day: 3000-Year-Old Tombs Mistakenly Bulldozed in Guangzhou
CDIC/Reuters

If you're from the U.S.A., where you can while your life away waiting for public infrastructure projects to get off the ground, this may come as shock: the Chinese city of Guangzhou has built eight subway lines since 1997, and they're building more now. (Some people actually think China is building subways too fast!)

Guangzhou is building its subway system so fast, in fact, that contractors surreptitiously bulldozed an archaeological site containing a half-dozen tombs from the Shang dynasty, dating from 2,200 to 3,000 years ago.

Archaeologists say they had left the site cordoned off with bright red tape and signs on Friday, and when they returned on Saturday, all had been bulldozed. The South China Morning Post reports that the Guangzhou construction has already destroyed a handful of tombs this year, in addition to other mishaps, like the collapse pictured above.

It's not an uncommon problem: In Western Europe, archaeological remains have posed a huge obstacle to tunnel construction, delaying subway construction in Rome, Athens, and elsewhere.

Top image: A caved-in area with buildings collapsed inside is seen near a construction site of a new subway line in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, January 28, 2013. According to Xinhua News Agency, the subsidence area, about 10-meter in depth, extended about 100 square meters. No casualty was reported from the incident. Picture taken January 28, 2013. China Daily Information Corps/Reuters.

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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