Albert von Le Coq
Albert von Le Coq (German pronunciation: [albɛɐ̯t lə kok]; 8 September 1860 Berlin, Prussia – 21 April 1930 Berlin, Germany) was a Prussian/German brewery owner and wine merchant, who at the age of 40 began to study archaeology.
He was born at Berlin, of a family of French Huguenot origin, as evidenced in his family name.
Von Le Coq 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 his leisure. The business he owned survives today as the A. Le Coq brewery in Tartu, Estonia.
Career as archaeologist
Von Le Coq was convinced that the influence of Ancient Greece could be found as far in the east as China. However, organising expeditions to Central Asia and China was beyond his means. The German archaeologist Hermann Parzinger has found a letter in the Prussian State Archive which reveals that the financial backing to von Le Coq’s expedition came from no one else than the last German emperor Wilhelm II. Wilhelm was obsessed with Greek culture and supported one of the expeditions with 32,000 German gold marks.
Von Le Coq was associated with the Museum für Völkerkunde (now called the Ethnological Museum of Berlin) 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 Theodor Bartus and his other assistants, 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 collections from the German expeditions were initially kept at the Indian Department of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin (Ethnologisches Museum Berlin). The artifacts were put on display at the museum and were open to the public until 1944 when the relics were destroyed in British bombing raids during World War II. The Ethnological Museum was bombed seven times in Allied bombing raids, destroying the larger wall murals which had been cemented into place and could not be moved; 28 of the finest paintings were totally destroyed. Smaller pieces were hidden in bunkers and coal mines at the outbreak of war and survived the bombings. When the Russians arrived in 1945 they looted at least 10 crates of treasures that they discovered in a bunker under the Berlin Zoo which have not been seen since. The remaining items have been collected together and are housed in a new museum in Dahlem, a suburb of Berlin, the Museum of Indian Art (Museum für Indische Kunst) from 1963 and finally combined into a single location at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, BBAW), since 1992.
Most of the manuscripts collection survived stored in salt mines. After the war the major part of the collection was given in 1946 to the newly-founded Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften. A smaller portion found its way to the Mainzer Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur.
- Schatzjagd an der Seidenstraße. A film by Susanne Rostosky. A production of Story House Productions GmbH, in cooperation with Logo ARTE and ZDF Enterprises. © ZDF 2013. Presented in Finland on YLE TV 1 on 16 March 2014 with the title “The surprising finds of the Silk Road.”
- von Le Coq, Albert. (1913). Chotscho: Facsimile-Wiedergaben der Wichtigeren Funde der Ersten Königlich Preussischen Expedition nach Turfan in Ost-Turkistan. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen), im Auftrage der Gernalverwaltung der Königlichen Museen aus Mitteln des Baessler-Institutes, Tafel 19. (Accessed 3 September 2016).
- Gasparini, Mariachiara. "A Mathematic Expression of Art: Sino-Iranian and Uighur Textile Interactions and the Turfan Textile Collection in Berlin," in Rudolf G. Wagner and Monica Juneja (eds), Transcultural Studies, Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg, No 1 (2014), pp 134-163. ISSN 2191-6411. See also endnote #32. (Accessed 3 September 2016.)
- Hansen, Valerie (2012), The Silk Road: A New History, Oxford University Press, p. 98, ISBN 978-0-19-993921-3.
- von Le Coq, Albert. (1913). Chotscho: Facsimile-Wiedergaben der Wichtigeren Funde der Ersten Königlich Preussischen Expedition nach Turfan in Ost-Turkistan. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen), im Auftrage der Gernalverwaltung der Königlichen Museen aus Mitteln des Baessler-Institutes, p. 28, Tafel 20. (Accessed 3 September 2016).
- Digby, T. (2002-05-09). "Nests of the Great Game spies". Shanghai Star. Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2010-11-26.
- From the Introduction by Peter Hopkirk in the 1985 edition of Von Le Coq's Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan, p. ix-x.
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
- von Le Coq, Albert (1923), Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, vol. 2: Die Manichaeischen Miniaturen, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer
- von Le Coq, Albert (1924), Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, vol. 3: Die Wandmalereien, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer
- von Le Coq, Albert (1924), Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, vol. 4: Atlas zu den Wandmalereien, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer
- von Le Coq, Albert (1926), Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, vol. 5: Neue Bildwerke, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer
- von Le Coq, Albert (1928), Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, vol. 6: Neue Bildwerke II, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer
- von Le Coq, Albert (1933), Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, vol. 7: Neue Bildwerke III, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer
- Hopkirk, Peter (1980), Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, ISBN 0-87023-435-8