Amazing Treasure Hunts Around the World
From Nicolas Cage uncovering secrets in "National Treasure," to Lara Croft raiding tombs in video games, to Robert Louis Stevenson telling tales of booty in "Treasure Island," treasure-hunting has long been a cultural touchstone, captivating people the world over.
Who wouldn't want the adventure of seeking out long-lost treasure and striking it rich?
As it turns out, treasure maps and legends of hidden gold and gems exist in real life, too. These 13 places around the world allegedly hold treasures worth millions, or even billions, of dollars.
Take a look at the clues and see if you have what it takes to unearth riches beyond your wildest dreams.
Sunken Spanish Ships of the Treasure Coast
Estimated Treasure: $2+ billion
An area of eastern Florida made up of St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties is known as the Treasure Coast, and for good reason: Scores of booty can be found on its beaches.
In 1715, 1,000 Spanish sailors set sail to the New World on 11 ships. When a hurricane hit, the ships sank and the sailors perished.
On board those ships? A bounty of gold, silver, emeralds and pearls.
When hurricanes kick up the seas and sand, some treasures still wash ashore to this day. One lucky family recently found $300,000 worth of gold just 150 feet off shore!
But the real treasure remains: Four of the 11 ships have never been found. One of the ships was a lightweight and fast-moving ship named the San Miguel. Rumored to have as much as $2 billion aboard, some say the ship's weight caused it to travel north a great distance, perhaps to waters off the Carolinas.
Dead Sea Scrolls Treasure
Estimated Treasure: $1 billion
Many have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, hidden for more than 2,000 years and filled with ancient history. But did you know the scrolls included a treasure map?
Archaeologists searching the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea in Israel, where the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls was found, made a unique discovery. Uncovering a copper scroll broken into two halves, they found a list of areas around Israel where gold and silver were hidden. The list included 64 locations, with clues such as:
"Item 12: In the court of [unreadable], nine cubits under the southern corner: gold and silver vessels for tithe, sprinkling basins, cups, sacrificial bowls, libations vessels; in all, six hundred and nine."
"Item 32: In the cave that is next to [unreadable] belonging to the House of Hakkoz, dig six cubits. There are six bars of gold."
The value of the gold and silver listed totals more than $1 billion — and none has yet to be found!
Estimated Treasure: $12.5 million
In 1718, Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship belonging to the infamous pirate Blackbeard, ran aground in North Carolina. Today, the state's Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab in Greenville makes regular dives to collect cannons and other goods from the ship, which was discovered off the coast in 1996.
But there's one thing that's never been found: Blackbeard's treasure.
Historians say Blackbeard (his real name was Edward Teach) purposely ran his ship aground to elude capture, hiding his treasure before he did somewhere in the Outer Banks. Teach spent a lot of time in the village of Ocracoke, and in addition to claiming to see his ghost, locals there believe his treasure is hidden somewhere nearby.
Blackbeard's ledger at his capture recorded his worth at $12.5 million — where did it all go?
Forrest Fenn's Buried Treasure
Estimated Treasure: $1-3 million
When Forrest Fenn was diagnosed with cancer in 1988, the art collector decided to give away his collection and fortune, including priceless artifacts, gold and gems. With a catch.
He buried his treasure in the Rocky Mountains and provided a cryptic map to its location in his book, "The Thrill of the Chase." In it, he details the location in clues like these:
"Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown."
Fenn survived his cancer, but didn't take back the treasure. Despite a recent hoax that the treasure had been found, it's still out there, and to this day Fenn continues to provide more clues on his website to guide treasure-seekers on where to search.
The Golden Owl
Estimated Treasure: 1 million francs
Forrest Fenn is not the only modern-day man to leave a hidden treasure to stir up adventure. Régis Hauser, a Frenchman using the pseudonym "Max Valentin," wrote a book with its own cryptic clues in 1993. "On the Trail of the Golden Owl" (in French, "Sur la trace de la chouette d'or") features clues around France for treasure-seekers to find the golden owl.
The gold and silver owl, sculpted by Michael Becker, weighs 22 pounds and features diamond accents. The lucky finder will also earn 1 million francs if they can find the owl, which is yet to be uncovered.
The riddle reads, in part:
"FIRST STEP…Wherever you want,
By the ross and the coachman.
But where you have to,
By the compass and the foot."
Can you guess what it means?
Estimated Treasure: $3-4 billion
The legend of Montezuma's treasure dates back to 1519, when Hernan Cortés met with the Aztec emperor, Montezuma II. Welcomed by the Aztecs, Cortés was given gold, after which the greedy Spaniard robbed the Aztecs of all their treasures.
When the Aztecs fought back, Cortés and his men made a run for it, but were chased. A final battle between Cortés and the Aztecs took place near Lake Texcoco in Mexico, and it was believed that Montezuma's treasure fell to the lake's bottom during the skirmish.
Not so. Dredging the lake found no remnants of treasure, and following Cortés' footsteps after the battle, people now think he and the treasure actually made it to Utah. Further perpetuating this theory, Aztec symbols (like the one shown here) were found in 1998 near Three Lakes pond in Kanab, Utah.
Doc Noss Treasure
Estimated Treasure: $30 billion
Oh, to discover a treasure, only to lose it again! Such was the fate of Doc Noss, who stumbled upon a tunnel in New Mexico in 1937. Deciding to see where the tunnel led, he discovered 200 bars of gold and jewels in what turned out to be a former mine shaft. In the hopes of finding more gold, Doc used dynamite to create a bigger cave entrance. Alas, the dynamite collapsed the cave and Noss searched for years in an effort to reclaim his bounty.
The mine, found at Victorio Peak, was closed by the military in the 1950s due to nuclear testing. It is rumored the Army found the gold, but no one is certain. Could there be gold in them thar hills?
Jean Lafitte Treasure
Estimated Treasure: Unknown
In the 1800s, the pirate Jean Lafitte and his brother, Pierre, followed the waterways to Louisiana's Lake Charles, nicknamed Contraband Bayou, where they attacked ships traveling into the Gulf of Mexico. There in the swamps, it's believed, Lafitte also stashed his precious gold and silver.
Treasure-seekers pay close attention to the area now, from the islands of Louisiana down to Texas. But since the buccaneer's death in 1823, no trace of his treasure has been found.
San Saba Treasure
Estimated Treasure: Millions
One of the most mysterious treasure legends involves the storied Alamo.
After the battle to defend the fort in San Antonio, Texas, left nearly 200 dead, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, rumors spread about the San Saba Treasure. According to whispers, a treasure bounty including gold, silver and religious artifacts — reportedly meant to help pay for an army to defend Texas — is buried beneath the fort.
To this day, there has been no proof of the treasure's existence, or stories of anyone having found it.
Myth or truth? You decide.
Emperor Tu Duc's Treasure
Estimated Treasure: Unknown
Vietnam is filled with temples — but one, in particular, is said to be filled with gold, jewels and other riches.
Tu Duc, an emperor of Vietnam, decided he wanted to be buried with massive wealth, so he created a tomb for himself and his millions. But, as the story goes, he kept it top-secret; while you can visit Tu Duc's official tomb today, it's believed the tomb filled with his riches remains hidden.
Of course, to build a massive tomb and move all the gold to fill it required many men. But Tu Duc thought of everything: He ordered the decapitation of all his servants once he was buried, so no one would know where the tomb, or its treasures, were stashed.
Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine
Estimated Treasure: Unknown
Since 1892, treasure-seekers have visited the “Superstition Mountains” in search of a lost treasure. When German Jacob Waltz discovered a gold ore mine, he kept it a secret from everyone he knew, taking the exact location of the mine to his grave.
More than 125 years later, people flock to Lost Dutchman State Park outside of Phoenix in the hopes of finding the mine and striking it rich. (Dutchman is the Americanized version of Deutsch, or German, man.)
These mountains intrigue for another reason, too. They got their name because both Native Americans and earlier explorers searching for gold in the hills recorded weird sounds coming from the mountains, as well as mysterious disappearances and deaths.
Colonel John Singleton Mosby Treasure
Estimated Treasure: $10+ billion
During a raid on a Union camp during the Civil War, a Confederate Commander found a sack filled with ransacked wealth. Inside was gold, silver and heirlooms, then valued at $350,000 worth of riches — enough for that commander, Colonel John Singleton Mosby (aka the "Grey Ghost") to enjoy a leisurely retirement.
Mosby was stationed in Central Virginia, and as the story is told, he and his men buried the treasure. But as his men went back to retrieve it, they were captured and hung by Union soldiers. Mosby himself, meanwhile, never attempted to return, which he regretted from his deathbed.
Still today, the treasure has yet to be found.
The Oak Island Money Pit
Estimated Treasure: 2 million pounds
In 1795, a teen on Oak Island, just off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, saw a strange light and discovered a hidden depression in the ground. And so he began to dig.
Gathering his friends, he dug 30 feet before discovering a pile of oak wood. He and his friends kept digging, eventually uncovering more oak every 30 feet. At 90 feet, a marker was revealed.
The group never found treasure after the hole began to flood — a booby trap, perhaps? — but it was enough to begin speculation that treasure had been hidden on the island. The "Money Pit" is said to contain the treasure of pirates; others think it dates to the Knights of Templar and holds the Holy Grail.
The island is privately owned, making it tough to explore without a tour guide, but that doesn't mean people haven't tried to uncover the truth of the mysterious hole.