Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq (1860–1930) was a German archaeologist and explorer of Central Asia. He was heir to a sizable fortune derived from breweries and wineries scattered throughout Central and Eastern Europe, thus allowing him the luxury of travel and study at the—no longer existing—Ethnology Museum (German: Museum für Völkerkunde) in Berlin. Serving as assistant to the head of the Museum, Professor Albert Grünwedel, Le Coq helped plan and organize expeditions into the regions of western Asia, specifically areas near the Silk Road such as Gaochang. When Grünwedel fell ill before the departure of the second expedition, Le Coq was assigned to lead it. His account of the second and third German Turpan expeditions was published in English in 1928 as Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan.
The expeditions found extensive networks of Buddhist and Manichaean cave temples in the Xinjiang region of Northwest China. Although many of the manuscripts found in the cave were destroyed during the excavation, von Le Coq speculated that he had discovered a major Manichaean library. Some of the paintings also led him to believe that he had found evidence of an Aryan culture, related to the Franks. With the help of his assistants, Theodor Bartus, Le Coq carved and sawed away over 360 kilograms (or 305 cases) of artifacts, wall-carvings, and precious icons, which were subsequently shipped to the museum. In Buried Treasures ..., Le Coq defends these "borrowings" as a matter of necessity, citing the turbulent nature of Chinese Turkestan at the time of the expeditions. Chinese consider this seizure a "colonial rapacity" comparable to the taking of the Elgin Marbles or the Koh-i-Noor diamond. The artifacts were put on display at the museum and  until 1944 when the relics were destroyed in a British bombing raid during World War II.
References and further reading
- von Le Coq, Albert (1928), Barwell, Anna, trans., ed., Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan: An Account of the Activities and Adventures of the Second and Third German Turpan Expeditions, London: George Allen & Unwin (Repr: 1985, OUP. ISBN 0-19-583878-5)
- von Le Coq, Albert (1922), Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, vol. 1: Die Plastik, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer