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Crossing boundaries: From our Far Eastern correspondent

 Ceiling decoration from a cave at Tun Huang. Tang Dynasty (618-907)

What is it in the human psyche that permits it to wipe away the achievements of past generations and other cultures so easily? Three examples of the destruction of our heritage are found in the title above, but there are literally countless more.
 
The Bonds Garage housing development (just a stone’s throw from the bank and ditch that form part of the north-east quadrant at Avebury) and the bulldozing of the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar in north-west China (see here) have one thing in common, they are being done in the name of ‘improvement’.
 
It is true that residents of the mobile homes behind the Bonds Garage development at Avebury, and the people of Kashgar in north-west China, will probably benefit from better housing but at what cost to world heritage? Like an extinct species, old Kashgar has now been lost. New houses at the Bonds site will, if they are allowed to go ahead, be an eyesore and an intrusion to the northern approach at Avebury for decades to come – an intrusion until a wiser generation seeks their removal. The sad side of all of this is that such destruction really is not necessary. The old does not need to make way for the new. With careful planning, and creative insight, preservation and progress can be achieved and both can support and nourish the other.
 
We asked at the beginning of this feature what is it in the human psyche that permits it to wipe away the achievements of past generations and other cultures so easily? While some understanding (though not the condoning) of the destruction of our heritage in the name of progress might be admitted, the culturecide of objects like the great standing Buddhas at Bamiyan in the name of religion is utterly and totally beyond our understanding. Perhaps those responsible for this destruction would care to give reasons for their actions on these pages.

Prompted by recent previous articles we have been musing that it seems it is not just in Wiltshire that some locals shouldn’t be put within a million miles of any decision making power over heritage monuments….

Everyone remembers the chairperson of Avebury parish council, on why Avebury World Heritage monument needed “improving” by her and her colleagues:
“five smart houses would look far better than what’s there at present”

Spookily, we now have this from the mayor of Oxford, Alabama, supporting the removal of a Native American mound:
“What it’s going to be is more prettier than it is today.”

Words fail us.

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