USA Today has posted an interesting article about the state of tomb raiding in China. I found it especially interesting that a lot of the best quality artifacts are being traded for the purposes of bribery.
In May, a court in Hunan province dealt death penalties to four men dressed as soldiers who used explosives and earth movers to raid a dozen tombs, finding treasures that included a 2,000-year-old royal seal, the Legal Weekend newspaper reported.
Robbers combine techniques old and new, analyst Wu Shu says. To find tomb sites, they are guided by traditional divination and feng shui beliefs about how tombs and other things should be situated for spiritual balance. They use modern prospecting equipment, classic archaeological spades and a knowledge of explosives to gain access, usually in a single night’s work.
While China’s antiques market is booming, Wu says “90% of it is illegal,” either fakes or state-level relics that should not be in private hands.
The antiques that robbers unearth “have become a new currency of bribery in China,” collector Hu Wengao told the state news agency Xinhua.
“Almost all the best antiques have gone either to foreign countries or corrupt high-ranking officials in China,” Hu alleged.