Confused Construction Workers Tore Down an Ancient Tomb and Replaced it With a Picnic Table

Is the tomb’s picnic table-like appearance to blame?

Construction Workers
Laurence Mouton/PhotoAlto/Corbis

There are mistakes, and then there are mistakes. You know the ones: humiliating, ridiculous, just plain unfortunate mix-ups. NPR’s Laura Wagner reports on one such gaffe — a Spanish construction team’s recent destruction of an ancient tomb and erection of a picnic table in its place.

Wagner writes that it was an honest mistake...after all, the tomb looked a lot like a picnic table:

Workers in the town of Cristovo de Cea in the Galicia region mistook what is believed to be a 6,000-year-old Neolithic tomb for a broken stone picnic table and "repaired it."

The error seems to have been a case of miscommunication — NPR’s Lauren Frayer says that the tomb was apparently not properly marked as a historic artifact and officials didn’t even realize it existed. Now, writes Wagner, archaeologists are in a dither and an environmental group is irate.

Here's a before and after of the tomb and the picnic table:

But which is worse — inadvertently destroying a priceless archaeological artifact on behalf of a picnic table, or mistakenly ruining a 17th-century oil painting because of a clumsy misstep? You be the judge: The Guardian’s Oliver Holmes writes that a 12-year-old boy in a Taiwanese museum recently “lived out a slapstick nightmare” when he tripped and broke his fall on a $1.5 million painting that now sports a fist-sized gash and lifelong embarrassment potential.

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