Treasure hunters rejoice. There is still gold in them there hills, and there are still ancient hoards to seek out on the bottom of the vast seas.
Here are five recent, very lucky discoveries of buried or sunken treasure.
Photo Credit: Georges Jansoone – Wikimedia Commons
Lost: 14th Century BC
In 1982, local sponge diver Mehmed Cakir was searching out his quarry in the waters southeast of Kas, Turkey when he came across a number of odd objects he described as “metal biscuits with ears.” Cakir didn’t know it at the time, but what he was describing were ancient copper “oxhide” ingots, and what he had discovered is one of the most historically significant shipwrecks ever found. Much has been written about the Uluburun Shipwreck, which included elephant ivory, hippo teeth, gold jewelry, swords, daggers and spearheads, among hundreds of fascinating objects from a bygone age. In total, the ship was carrying cargo that originated from 9 or 10 unique cultures, shedding light on the Bronze Age and proving that treasure is valuable for more than just its bling.
Photo Credit: Paul Hermans – Wikimedia Commons
Nuestra Senora de Atocha
Indiana chicken farmer Mel Fisher quit chicken farming for good after finding the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha at the bottom of the sea. It took him 16 and a half years to scour the Caribbean until he finally found the legendary ship, which sunk when it hit rocks in 1622. The long search paid off, with Fisher recovering 40 tons of gold, silver and Colombian emeralds worth a combined $450 million. This treasure hunt, however, isn’t over. Half the Atocha’s riches are still believed to be beneath the sea, including most of the rare Muzo emeralds that would have been stored in the captain’s cabin in the sterncastle, a part of the ship that remains lost.
Photo Credit: joncallas – Flickr.com
Lost: 700 AD
Terry Herbert was just an ordinary man with a metal detector. On July 5, 2009, while scanning farmland in Staffordshire, UK, Herbert became a very rich man with a metal detector. His find, known as the Staffordshire Hoard, involved over 3,500 pieces of treasure dating to the 7th century AD: the largest Anglo-Saxon hoard ever discovered. The collection consists mostly of martial items such as sword hilts and pommels, armor fragments, and golden crosses — a stockpile researchers say was likely buried by a raiding party 1,400 years ago, during the reign of kings Penda, Wulfhere or Æthelred, but never retrieved. In November 2009, the treasure was valued at more than $5 million, a sum Herbert must share with the owner of the land on which the Staffordshire Hoard was found.
Photo Credit: sirqitous – Flickr.com
Putzing around on the internet pays off. At least it might for Nathan Smith, a Los Angeles musician who found a shipwreck using Google Earth. Smith was clicking and scrolling in the skies above south Texas when the outline of a ship caught his eye. He figured it must be the legendary lost barkentine of Barkentine Creek, a ship loaded with gold and silver and bound from Mexico to Spain when it was blown inland by a hurricane in 1822. There was just one little problem: the ship sits on private property and the landowners won’t have just any young internet addict showing up and digging up their land. Smith and the landowners are currently involved in a protracted court battle, with the state even making a claim on what may be buried in the bones of the ship. Until the legal dust settles, nobody will know.
Photo Credit: National Maritime Museum – Wikimedia Commons
The Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes
Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes was filled with more than 500,000 pieces of gold and silver, mined and minted in South America, when a cannonball flew over the bow of her sister ship, the Medea. At the time, the Mercedes, the Medea and two other Spanish ships were two months into their journey across the Atlantic and just a day away from landing at Cadiz. But the British had other ideas. The Spanish fired back and so began the Battle of Cape Santa Maria, a decisive British victory that would lead to the Mercedes sinking. Two hundred years later, publicly traded treasure hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploration found the wreck at the bottom of the sea. The bounty? Several hundred million dollars in gold and silver coins, pulled from the bottom of the ocean at a cost of more than $2 million. However, it was a haul that Odyssey’s shareholders would not get to keep. In June 2009, a federal court ordered the company to send the treasure to its rightful owner: the Spanish. Tough break.