Wednesday, June 10, 2015

10 Hidden Treasures You Could Still Find

Lake Guatavita Treasure

The societies of Central and South America prized gold as a ritual substance and used it in a number of ways. For European invaders who valued the metal for commerce and decoration, seeing all that gold squandered was tough to deal with. The Musica people, in what is now Colombia, performed rites around the small mountain Lake Guatavita in the Andes. A tribal ruler was coated in gold dust and sent out onto the lake on a raft, which he would then dive off to wash the gold away. Other people would throw gold and jewels in after him. The Colombian government has forbidden treasure seekers from draining or otherwise exploring the lake, but you won't let a little thing like that stop you, right? 

The Lost Faberge Eggs

 The rulers of Russia pre-Communism loved to flaunt their expensive tastes, and one of their most notorious purchases was the commissioning of 50 jeweled Easter eggs from Peter Carl Faberge. The Russian Revolution scattered them to the wind, as symbols of decadence were no longer cool in the U.S.S.R. The Faberge eggs are worth millions each, and most of them are in museums around the world. Seven, however, are still out there. One was found at a rummage sale by a scrap dealer in 2014 and sold for some $40 million. Jackpot!

The Treasure of La Noche Triste

 Spain's colonization of Central and South America was fueled by the country's vampiric desire for gold. The New World had lots of the shiny stuff, and the King of Spain wanted it all. Herman Cortes was their man on the ground, and one night in 1520 things slipped away from him. The Spaniards had been holding the Aztec king Moctezuma II hostage, but on June 30 he died, sending the capital of Tenochtitlan into chaos. Cortes and his men had to retreat, leaving behind a massive amount of treasure. When they returned the next year, all of the gold was gone. The most popular theory is that the Aztecs threw it into Lake Texoco, where it was buried in the silt and then built over by what is now Mexico City.

John Dillinger's Stash

One of the biggest pains about being a criminal is that you have to take extreme measures to hide your ill-gotten gains. John Dillinger was one of the most notorious public enemies America has ever seen, and his exploits are legend. He and his gang knocked over a bank in northwestern Ohio and fled to the farm of Harry Pierpont. With the cops on their tail, they knew they had to stash the loot, so they buried it somewhere on the property. Unfortunately for Dillinger and his gang, all of the participants in the robbery were either killed or jailed before they could return to Pierpont's farm, meaning some $200,000 is still under the ground.

The Golden Owl

 Not all of these treasures have been lost for centuries; some of them were hidden in our lifetimes. Case in point: La Chouette D'Or, the Golden Owl. This bronze bird was hidden somewhere in France by a man named Max Valentin in April 1993. Valentin, working with sculptor Michael Becker, created eleven clues to the owl's location, and promised the finder a prize worth 1 million francs. More than 20 years later, the owl has not been found, and Valentin passed away in 2009 so he can't give any hints. There have been a number of scandals around the search, most notably in 1995 when a deranged treasure hunter tried to blow up a church because he thought the owl was buried beneath it.

Bighorn River Treasure

 Putting valuable metals on a boat seems like a recipe for disaster, but back in the old days that was the most reliable way to transport your treasure. In 1876, Captain Grant Marsh was sent to relieve embattled general George Armstrong Custer with men and supplies, taking a riverboat down the Bighorn River. Unfortunately, Custer's men were wiped out before he got there, and Marsh had to use his vessel to ferry them back for medical care. The weight of all that humanity was too great, so Marsh was forced to jettison much of his cargo into the river, including a reported $375,000 worth of gold entrusted to him by miners who feared Sioux attacks. It's supposedly still down there if you feel like diving.

 Mosby's Treasure

The Civil War saw many old families with lots of money displaced and destroyed, and not all of their possessions ever came home. As the story goes, in 1863 Confederate colonel John Mosby routed a Union regiment at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia. The Northern boys had been guarding a burlap sack full of jewelry and coins taken from area planters, and Mosby gladly took custody of the treasure trove. On their way back to camp, Mosby's scouts spotted a massive deployment of Union soldiers and, panicking, the colonel buried his swag somewhere in the Virginia woods. He never returned to dig it up, and treasure hunters are still looking for it to this day.

 The Fenn Treasure

 In 2010, art dealer Forrest Fenn decided to make a name for himself in a truly bizarre way. He bought an old bronze chest and stuffed it full of priceless artifacts, including Chinese jade, gold dust, a 17th century emerald ring and more. The estimated total worth of the chest sits between $2 and $3 million, and it's somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fenn wrote a cryptic poem that supposedly contains nine clues to its location. Thousands of people have tried to find Fenn's treasure, but so far none have succeeded. He's since given a few more clues out, so follow the trail and maybe you'll get lucky.

 The Lake Toplitz Gold

 During World War II, the Axis powers looted many of Europe's wealthiest areas, absconding with a fortune worth of precious metals, jewels and artwork. While much of it was recovered after the war and returned to its original owners, there is still a significant amount missing. One of the most tempting treasures allegedly lies at the bottom of Lake Toplitz in Austria. Rumors of a Nazi convoy dumping loads of crates into the lake started circulating in 1945, but a large wooden platform in between the surface and the lake bed has made exploration extremely difficult. Many believe that a large amount of stolen gold is down there somewhere.

 The Dead Sea Scrolls Treasure

 The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s was a massive boon to archaeologists and historians, giving an incredible view into the culture of the Middle East from 408 BC to seven hundred years later. But one of those scrolls has become an obsession for treasure hunters. What's known as the Copper Scroll was dug up in 1952, and once it was opened and translated, scholars discovered that it described the locations of multiple deposits of silver and gold, valued at millions of dollars. Unfortunately, many of the direction reference buildings and landmarks no longer exist, making digging it up problematic.