3 Famous Treasure Hunts

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Genuine discoveries of treasure with either cultural or monetary significance are a once-in-a-generation event. Often times the hunt is as exhilarating as the find, fraught with danger, ego and intrigue. Taking a look back through history, here are 3 of some of the most significant treasure hunters and their legacies.

Oak Island

In 1795, claiming to have seen lights at Oak Island, a young gentleman named Daniel McGinnis was drawn to the location and found signs of recent human activity. He quickly gathered a group of friends and they began to dig in a large circular depression on the southeastern end of the island. There they found a series of log buttresses holding open a rather deep shaft but stopped digging at around 30 feet. They reported their findings to a local paper but the discovery went largely unnoticed.

About 8 years later, the Onslow Company started an expedition to Oak Island as they believed the location housed the now famous secret treasure known as the "Money Pit". Sailing almost 350 miles to the location, they dug 90 feet down and discovered even more proof of man-made structures and building materials. In one report, a stone was said to have been found with intricate inscriptions. One translation reads "forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried." Over the following 200 years, many expeditions and theories have come and gone with extremely limited success.

Today, the island is privately owned and tours are available covering the rich history and cultural traditions surrounding the area. Theories about the origin of the hole abound, including natural and artificial causes. The treasure is equally nebulous with claims that it is from pirates, the Freemasons, Vikings and others.

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Discovery of Troy

When not hunting for monetary treasures, discoveries often times have great historical implications and significance, guiding our understanding of the past events. A gentleman by the name Heinrich Schielmann was fascinated with the ancient Greek poet Homer and specifically with the possibility that Homer had given first person accounts of the events in those poems.

To refresh, Homer was one of the greatest ancient Greek poets who lived around the 8th century BCE. Two works that are commonly attributed to him are the Illiad and The Odyssey which serve as some of the best and oldest examples of Western literature. The Odyssey covers a period of time after the fall of the city of Troy and the Greek hero Odysseus' journey home.

Digging began in 1871 at a location in Turkey similar to the one described in the Odyssey and continued through 1874. There he found many cultural artifacts including pottery, jewelry and ancient structures believed to be fortifications. He moved to other locations such as Myceanae where he made one of his most significant finds, the Mask of Agamemnon.

Some debate still exists as to whether what Schielmann discovered is the "real" Troy. Nevertheless, the discovery produced a great number of cultural and historical treasures that helped us better understand the ancient Greeks and the past.

Antikythera Mechanism

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In 80 BC a merchant ship was traveling off of the coast of an island called Anytikythera which is located between Greece and Crete. By all indications the ship belonged to wealthy merchants and carried wine, gold, jewels, statues and a very special mechanical device. Weighing around 300 tons the ship was overfull making navigation a difficult task. In the strong currents of the Grecian waters, the ship ultimately crashed against coastal cliffs and sank some 200 feet making recovering goods impossible.

In 1900, a sponge diver originally discovered the wreck. He found the remains of statues but reported to his captain that he found "a heap of dead naked women" that scared him half to death.

After centuries submersed in the ocean waters, a fused piece of metal was recovered from the crash, but turn of the century technology was unable to discern its purpose. 50 years later, a British physicist and historian named Derek De Solla Price was investigating the find and decided to use X-rays to gain more information. At the time, X-rays were not sensitive and produced very poor images so work eventually slowed to a stop.

Over the next 50 years, multiple teams were able to find that the mechanism was the first of its kind to be discovered. It was designed to accurately tell time and foretell the movement of planets and stars seen by the naked eye. It could anticipate solar and lunar eclipses decades in advance, the color and direction of those eclipses and more. With great accuracy it could follow and predict where and in what direction the planets, stars and moon would travel.

Work still continues as not all of the device remains today. Only 30 of the hand-made gears still exist today. The original cabinet was made of wood and is known to have carried writings and inscriptions that are now lost. This device was thousands of years ahead of its time and proceeds to inspire and surprise researchers.

Treasure Hunting at Home

In the event you may wish to hunt for treasures on your own time, two principles come into play. First is method. Be patient and methodical as often times discoveries are very subtle and require a watchful and attentive eye. Secondly, have the right tools! If going the metal detector route, be sure to dress appropriately. Beaches are a popular spot to look for surprises so sandals and shorts are good plus some eye protection like a hat and sunglasses. The back yard is a great resource as well as it is a perfect setting for a family expedition. If the weather is chilly, wear jackets if walking and think of an electric patio heater if digging as they are often times portable and will keep you warm while exploring.

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