Top 20 Historical Objects Ruined by Morons

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Top 20 Historical Objects Ruined by Morons

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
They survived the ravages of time - but not human stupidity. For this list, we'll be looking at historical artifacts and sites that people have damaged, ranked according to their historical value and the idiocy involved. Our countdown includes A Monet Painting, A Mayan Pyramid, Troy, The Nazca Lines, and more!
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Top 20 Historical Objects Ruined by Morons


They survived the ravages of time - but not human stupidity. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 20 historical objects ruined by morons.

For this list, we’ll be looking at historical artifacts and sites that people have damaged, ranked according to their historical value and the idiocy involved. Since we’re talking about specific artifacts, we’ll be excluding cultural sites and relics destroyed en masse, such as occurred during China’s Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s.

#20: Statue of the Two Hercules

We’ve seen a spate of selfie mishaps in the early 21st century, from costly accidents to tragic deaths. It seems people will do anything to get the perfect snap. A 300 year old statue featuring two depictions of Hercules has long been a symbol of the city of Cremona, Italy. But the legendary hero’s statue was no match for the selfie obsession of two tourists who decided to climb it for a quick photo. The men toppled and shattered the marble crown on the emblem held by the pair of Hercules figures – and unfortunately this wasn’t the first time holidaymakers have damaged historical Italian monuments.

#19: Dunster’s Cobblestone Paths

Dunster, Somerset is known for being an extremely well-preserved example of a medieval English village. It houses a 1,000-year-old castle and contained beautiful cobblestone paths that dated back to the Bronze Age. However, after numerous reports of people tripping on the ancient stones, the village’s council decided to rip up the millennia-old cobblestones and replace them with smoother paving stones. The villagers, who initially supported the idea, then showed their intense hatred of the new paving stones by complaining to the media. The council then decided to rip up the slabs at significant cost and replace them with stones that fit more with the village’s aesthetic.

#18: An Ancient Chinese Vase

Ever looked at Chinese porcelain hundreds of years old and thought, “Man, this would sure make a nice table lamp?” Well, that’s what must have happened before someone drilled a hole in this Qing Dynasty vase to push an electrical cable through. Decades later, a woman who had inherited the vase took it to be valued, only to be told that the hole had dramatically decreased its value, down from a potential £50,000, to a few thousand. So before repurposing some old vase that’s been lying around the house forever – go get an appraisal.

#17: A 126-Year-Old Statue of Dom Sebastian I

And here we have another tragic case of a selfie ruining a beloved piece of art. A child-sized statue of Portuguese king Dom Sebastian I stood outside the Rossio railway station in Lisbon, Portugal. This statue lasted for 126 years before it literally fell to a selfie. A 24-year-old man climbed the façade outside the Rossio station to take a picture with the statue. However, he accidentally knocked the statue over, and it shattered to pieces upon contact with the ground. The man tried to run away, but he was apprehended by police and faced prosecution for destroying a century-old artifact.

#16: The Star-Spangled Banner

At the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, the British navy bombarded American forces at Fort McHenry through the night. Detained on a British troopship, American poet Francis Scott Key watched in dismay as the heavens seemed to rain down a sea of fire. But at dawn, an enormous American flag was raised defiantly over the fort, a moment that inspired him to pen the American national anthem. This iconic flag came into the possession of one Georgiana Armistead Appleton - who cut off snippets as gifts, before the remains were whisked away to safety by the Smithsonian Institution.

#15: A Monet Painting

Ever struggled to understand art? Maybe Irish vandal Andrew Shannon felt pretty frustrated about a Claude Monet painting hanging in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. Valued at €10 million, the Impressionist work, "Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat", depicts an idyllic scene on the Seine River. But it apparently enraged Shannon, who in 2012 punched a hole right through the canvas. He initially told cops he was trying to “get back at the state,” but would claim in court that it was an accident and that he stumbled, due to a health condition. Witnesses claimed otherwise, and he served 5 years in the slammer. Thankfully, the painting was later restored - after 18 painstaking months of work.

#14: Chilean Geoglyphs

The Dakar Rally: the annual off-road race where affluent drivers tear through untouched wilds. Before moving to South America in 2009, the rally took place in Africa, where it attracted criticism for its impact on locals and the environment. Archaeologists in Chile have also condemned the event. The route through the Atacama Desert damaged protected sites, including ancient geoglyphs, which are works of art that are carved into the ground. Some of these are well over a thousand years old. That doesn’t seem to matter of these off-road enthusiasts, some of whom think nothing of driving across these priceless artifacts from another era.

#13: The Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are brilliant artistic designs made in the desert grounds of southern Peru. The designs were created between 500 BC and 500 AD and range from geometric patterns to depictions of human, animal, and natural life. These can stretch over 1,000 feet in length and can clearly be seen from the air and from nearby hilltops. However, many of the lines have been damaged in recent years by squatters, construction machinery, careless Greenpeace activists who walked over the site with sneakers, off-road vehicles, and a truck driver who accidentally drove over numerous lines.

#12: King Tut’s Beard

Chalk this up to Tutankhamun’s curse. Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled from 1332 to 1323 BC. His tomb was finally discovered in 1922, and the mummy of Tutankhamun was uncovered three years later. While the chin was initially found broken off his death mask, it was permanently reattached in 1944. Or so everyone thought. In 2014, it was accidentally broken off and hastily glued back on, a process that caused irreparable scratches to the beard. After people began to notice the botched glue job, the mask was professionally fixed, and eight people faced criminal charges for their negligence in “repairing” the priceless mask with superglue.

#11: The Senator

It was one of the oldest trees in the world, predating Jesus by 1,500 years. This bald cypress towered 125 feet high in Big Tree Park, Florida, and was a landmark for Native Americans and early settlers. But in 2012, 26 year old Sara Barnes, who proclaimed herself a “nature enthusiast” on her modeling page, lit a fire to better see the methamphetamine she was about to smoke. Things got a little out of hand, and today, a charred stump of wood is all that remains.

#10: A 5,000-Year-Old Rock Carving

Well, we suppose they had good intentions. The Norwegian island of Tro houses a 5,000-year-old rock carving depicting a man on skis. This carving is one of the world’s earliest indications of skiing, and it inspired the symbols of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. However, it was ruined in 2016 when two teenagers carved over it in an attempt to make it appear brighter and clearer. The teenagers, not realizing what a serious infraction they had committed, turned themselves in amidst the intense media frenzy. The two then faced criminal charges and prosecution under the country’s Cultural Heritage Act.

#9: Ancient Chinese Tombs

Construction crews strike again. In 2007, workers building an IKEA branch in Nanjing, China, destroyed 10 ancient tombs dating back almost 1,800 years. It was claimed that this was all a mistake and the crews didn’t know about the tombs. Ooookayyy…. But in 2013, contractors working on a metro line in Guangzhou demolished imperial tombs, which had been clearly cordoned off by the Guangzhou Archaeology Research Centre. Some of the tombs were 3,000 years old. The destruction of all these tombs is a huge loss for those seeking to better understand China’s history.

#8: A 5,000 Year Old Cave Painting

Thousands of years ago, one of our ancestors drew this mysterious long-armed figure in Los Escolares Cave in Southern Spain. Hidden away from modern eyes until its rediscovery in 1973, it withstood the ravages of time for millennia as civilizations rose and fell. But it couldn’t survive the shoddy work of thieves, who in 2014 sheared away part of the artwork in an attempt to steal it. This is a huge blow, as the damage is irreparable, but it also points out another problem. Although the cave system housing the picture is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there’s no practical way to protect it against such acts.

#7: A Mayan Pyramid

Belize is rich with relics left by the Mayans, whose civilization flourished in Central America for centuries until beginning a serious decline after 950 AD. But in 2013, the country lost one of these riches when construction crews used the stones of an ancient pyramid for road fill. The pyramid, called Noh Mul and built in 250 BC, stood almost 60 feet tall, but was quickly broken down by the crew, who were later charged and fined. Such destruction isn’t uncommon in Belize, where Mayan mounds are tempting targets for construction workers.

#6: El Paraíso Pyramid

“This pyramid would sure be a great spot for a swimming pool!” Maybe that’s what property developers were thinking when they illegally bulldozed a 20 foot tall, four thousand year old pyramid at El Paraíso, Peru. They then lit the remains on fire, for good measure. The site is one of the oldest and largest archaeological sites in Peru. As a matter of fact, it predates the rise of the famous Incan Empire. Onlookers prevented them from destroying other pyramids, and the developers were hit with criminal charges.

#5: A Neolithic Tomb

In 2015, workers in the Spanish town of Cristovo de Cea accidentally filled in a 6,000-year-old tomb with concrete and topped it off with a picnic table. They thought the tomb’s slabs were a stone bench that had fallen into disrepair, so they wanted to erect a fancy picnic table in its place. The town’s mayor said that he wasn’t aware of the site’s historical significance, and the site wasn’t marked or protected in any way. People better have some damn good picnics on that bench, because it cost history a 6,000-year-old tomb to put it there.

#4: Troy

Troy is an ancient city depicted in Homer’s “Iliad,” said to be the site of the famous Trojan War. The historical city of Troy is located in modern-day Turkey and was partially excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s. However, Schliemann wasn’t a great archaeologist, and he proceeded to blast away the walls and layers of Troy and carved massive trenches in the ground that remain to this day. As one scholar stated, Schliemann “destroyed a phenomenal amount of material.” And this is why inexperienced archaeologists are not allowed to excavate millennia-old cities.

#3: The Second Temple of Artemis

While the original Temple of Artemis was destroyed in a flood, it was rebuilt in a more extravagant manner around 550 BC. It stood nearly 400 feet long and 150 feet wide, contained 40-foot tall columns, and was allegedly the first Greek temple to be made from marble. It was a notable attraction for almost two hundred years, but it was burned to the ground in 356 BC by some snot-nosed punk named Herostratus, who simply wanted to be famous. He was subsequently tortured on the rack and executed, and his name was banned from being spoken or written with the intention of erasing him from history. It didn’t work.

#2: The Buddhas of Bamiyan

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were two enormous statues of buddha that were carved out of a cliffside in Afghanistan. The statues were carved in the 6th century, and they were reportedly decorated with elaborate jewelry by the year 630. The statues persisted for over 1,000 years until they were destroyed by the Taliban in March of 2001. The statues were bombarded with anti-aircraft weaponry, dynamite, artillery, and mines before the Taliban repelled down the cliff and placed explosives inside the monuments. The commander of the Taliban, Mohammed Omar, stated that, “It has given praise to Allah that we have destroyed them.”

#1: Mosques, Mausoleums & More

Since 2014, ISIS has destroyed numerous historical monuments and artifacts in their war against other faiths and denominations. These include religious sites, such as the mosque of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul, Iraq, and the ancient temples of Bel and Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria. In Palmyra, they also vandalized a Roman Theatre, and demolished a tetrapylon monument. Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. Their efforts to destroy the region’s cultural heritage have also included bulldozing the historic Assyrian cities Nimrud and Nineveh in Iraq, which was at one point the largest city in the ancient world.
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