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BEIJING (Reuters) - About 10 ancient tombs dating back nearly 1,800 years have been destroyed by construction workers building an IKEA branch in Nanjing in southeastern China, a city newspaper said on Tuesday.
The tombs -- from the "six dynasties" period from AD 220 to 589 -- were uncovered on the outskirts of the ancient capital in Jiangsu province, the Nanjing Morning Post said.
City archaeologists told the newspaper the tombs might have been those of a wealthy family of the period as the workmanship was of high quality. The tombs were constructed of green bricks embroidered with ornate lotus patterns.
The tombs were destroyed by excavation machines and bulldozers making way for an outlet for the Swedish IKEA home furnishings chain, according to the report.
"The tops of some of the tombs were chopped off by bulldozers, disclosing some green bricks," it said, citing a witness.
"The situation of another tomb was even more miserable, because it was dug from the centre by an excavator, leaving only part of the coffin hanging on the mud wall," it said.
A spokesman for IKEA was not immediately available for comment.
Archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum have asked the developers to halt construction while they research the site and collect the artifacts, the report said, but it was not clear whether the work had been stopped.
Under Chinese law, people or work units found destroying "ancient tombs" can be fined 50,000 to 500,000 yuan (about $6,600-$65,700) but the laws are weakly enforced, the newspaper said.
Developers would sometimes rather pay the fine than delay or cancel construction projects, it added.