Sunday, May 1, 2011

Amazing Treasures-More Great Fodder for Fiction

Fascinating tales of lost gold and treasures beyond belief, amazing expeditions, daring adventurers. Writers have used these real-life treasure hunts as the basis of their stories for decades.

1. The Amber Room--Dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," this eleven foot square hall consisted of large wall panels inlaid with several tons of amber, large gold-leaf-edged mirrors and four Florentine mosaics. Inlaid with precious jewels, the room was created for Prussia's King Friedrich I and given to Russian czar Peter the Great in 1716. Located at Catherine Palace, near St. Petersburg, Russia, it is valued at over 142 million today. Fate: Taken by the Nazis to Konigsberg Castle during World War II, but missing at the end of the war. Speculation: Russians destroyed the Amber Room when they bombarded the castle. Or it could have been buried in a bunker somewhere. Novelist Steve Berry penned a hit novel about this one.

2. The Lost City of Atlantis--According to the Greeks, Atlantis was a highly advanced island society that supposedly sank into the sea in 9600 BC. Philosophers say Atlantis was greater in extent than Libya and Asia, with luxurious palaces, abundant gold and silver and the best soil and climate in the world. However, Plato wrote that the people of Atlantis were defeated in war by other tribes and then disaster struck, destroying the island, perhaps by earthquakes and floods. Fate: Possible location 620 miles off the northwest coast of Africa near the Canary Islands. No treasure has ever been uncovered. Too many popular books and movies on the Atlantis theme to mention!

3. Blackbeard's Treasure--Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard the pirate, plundered the high seas for only two years (1716-1718) but managed to amass a great deal of wealth, pouncing on Spanish treasure ships returning from Mexico and South America. Fate: Researchers believe they have found the wreckage of Blackbeard's ship "Queen Anne's Revenge," in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Thought to have run aground near South Carolina, the wreck contained gold dust, apothecary weights, a mortar and pestle, and many other artifacts. However, the pirate may have transferred the treasure to another ship before his own vessel sank and none of his booty has ever been found, despite many searches in the Caribbean and the Cayman Islands. Remember "Pirates of the Caribbean?" Or what about "Treasure Island?" Some say Jack Sparrow is really Blackbeard!

4. Montezuma's Gold--Legends abound that after Montezuma was killed in the 1500's and the Spanish were driven from the Aztec capital, the Aztec people took Montezuma's treasure and hid it from the Spaniards. Fate: Some believe the treasure was hidden underneath mud and sludge on the outskirts of Mexico City. A former Mexican president even had a lake bed dredged, but found nothing. Other suspected hiding places include Guatemala and even Kanab, Utah! Read my book "The Montezuma Secret" to find out where I hid it!

5. Oak Island Treasure--Oak Island, on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, is believed to hold a variety of missing treasures: the gold of Captain Kidd, Marie Antoinette's jewels, even the Holy Grail of the Knights Templar! Fate: After 200 years of searching, nothing has been found. Oak Island has often been called the "Money Pit," because archeologists found a deep pit 31 meters down, and layers of logs, along with a large stone inscribed with symbols deciphered to mean "Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried." However, the pit is described as a natural phenomenon of the islands, similar to a sinkhole. Novelists Preston and Child wrote "Riptide" about the mysterious Money Pit.

Next week: More Lost Treasures!

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