From stolen Aztec gold to missing European art work, here are seven antiquated treasures at large around the world.
In late June 1520, the Aztecs finally had enough of Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadores. As the indigenous army drove their Spanish conquerers out of the capital city of Tenochitlan, Cortes commanded his men to gather as much gold and treasure as they could, stuff it in their armor and bolt for their ships.
There were two big problems though: Tenochitlan was in the middle of a lake, and gold is really heavy. This made it easier for the Aztecs to throw the Spanish over causeways and bridges, then drown beneath the weight of armor and gold.
The events of “La Noche Triste” (The Sad Night) submerged a massive amount of Aztec treasure in the waters around Tenochitlan, but Mexico City now sits on top of the dried basin.
In 1820, English Captain William Thompson had a basic task: Take a treasure trove from Lima, Peru and bring it to Mexico intact. The haul never got there, though; Thompson is believed to have stashed it somewhere in the Coco Islands, 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica.
Treasure seekers have been hunting it down for ages — even former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt took a shot with friends in 1910.
The collection of gold coins and statues, jewels and jeweled swords, crowns and bars of gold and silver is worth $269 million today.
With his Partisan Rangers, Confederate Col. John Singleton Mosby pulled off a risky raid on Union forces at the Fairfax Courthouse on March 9, 1863. Not only did he and his troops capture 42 union soldiers, but Mosby also looted the quarters of Union General Edwin H. Stoughton.
There, Mosby found a slew of family heirlooms for Virgina families that Stoughton and his forces took.
But as Mosby and company bailed, they encountered a large contingent of Union troops west of Haymarket, Virginia. Mosby gave the treasure to his most trusted sergeant to bury so Union forces couldn’t grab it in battle. The treasure still hasn’t been found.
Part of this treasure has already been found, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little piece of the action yourself.
On September 6, 1622, a Spanish treasure ship — La Nuestra Señora de Atocha, or, “Our Lady of Atocha” — got caught in a hurricane near the Flordida Keys on the way back to Spain. The ship slammed into the shallow coral reefs about 35 miles from the islands, submerging almost all the crew and the entirety of the fortune 55 feet deep.
Part of the treasure was found on July 20, 1985 by American treasure hunter Mel Fisher. He claimed $500 million of lost cargo, but 17 tons of silver bars, 128,000 coins, 27 kg of emeralds and about 35 boxes of church gold are still missing, according to the ship’s manifest.
Now, Fisher runs a treasure diving company that take patrons looking for the remainder of the riches. Divers frequently find coins, but no one has found the whole hidden trove yet.
When gold ends up under water, it’s usually an accident. But a tribe of indigenous people in modern day Colombia had their priest cover himself in gold dust and toss gold into Lake Guatavita as an offering to its water god, as the tale goes.
There have been several attempts to drain the lake and dig for the gold, but the Colombian government now prohibits anyone from trying.
As Nazis terrorized parts of Europe throughout the 1930s and ’40s, they often plundered the homes of the people they conquered for art and other valuable objects.
When the tide of World War II turned against them, many Nazis began destroying and hiding what they took. They eventually dumped a great deal of it into Lake Toplitz, in neighboring Austria. Austria rarely lets anyone try to find what was sunken in the lake.
The Confederacy was crumbling toward the middle of 1865, and as the South prepared to surrender, the Confederate government had to figure out what to do with the remainder of its treasury. There’s a long, convoluted history of how the different Confederate banks were liquidated, but there’s allegedly a stash of gold buried somewhere near Washington, Georgia, then worth about $140,000.