Everywhere in the world there are priceless lost treasures that have been buried away and forgotten over time. In many cases, periods of war prompted people to hide their precious belongings, awaiting a more peaceful time to resurface them safely. Unfortunately, as with the following 8 lost treasures, that time may come too late. Often, in the mere act of secreting gold, jewels and other valuables away, the owners and protectors of ancient and valuable artifacts unwittingly lose their precious treasures forever. Such is the case with panicked shipwrecks, marsh-ridden shortcuts and cave-buried secrets that time has forgotten.
Lost wartime treasures are an historical fact of human existence. During WWII, rumors of Nazi gold hidden in the Alps drove treasure hunters to obsessively explore mountain ranges in search of gold. The American Civil War is rife with rumors of lost Confederate gold that many people are still trying to discover. When Baghdad was sieged in 2003, many priceless artifacts and treasures were destroyed. The National Museum in Iraq’s capital was home to unimaginable archaeological treasures that evidenced the rise of one of the very first human cultures of Mesopotamia. During the siege, the National Museum was looted and thousands of priceless artifacts have never been seen again.
Some treasures, like the Giant Buddhas in Afghanistan, are lost forever due to religiously-motivated destruction. Fortunately, however, many lost wartime relics remain hidden somewhere within our grasp, such as the following 8 treasures:
Yamashita’s Treasure is so-called because it is associated with the Japanese WWII General Tomoyuki Yamashita, whose troops stole unpredecented amounts of gold from their neighboring countries during the war. After Japan had been subdued by Allied troops to end the war, the gold mysteriously vanished. Rumor has it that Japanese troops had hidden their stolen treasures in various caves and tunnels in the Phillipines, but they never managed to return and ship it back to Japan.
One man, Rogelio Roxas, claims to have found some of the treasure only to have it stolen from him by Philipino President Ferdinand Marcos.
Lake Toplitz Treasure
The Lake Toplitz Treasure was sealed up in iron boxes and sunken down to the bottom of the lake. Retreating Nazi troops were seen sinking their treasures into Lake Toplitz as they fled Allied forces near the end of WWII, however the contents of the boxes is unknown. Researchers believe that anything from gold and silver to priceless works of art may be at the bottom of the lake, and divers are still trying to locate the boxes. Due to large tree trunks trapped midway down the lake’s depth, the excavation process has not yet been successful.
The Peking Man was an extraordinary archaeological find that was pieced together between the years 1929 and 1937. Don’t let the name confuse you: the Peking Man treasure is actually a bevy of pre-historic treasures including skulls and other pieces of human bones from many ancient humans. Stone tools were found with the fossils. Discovered in a Beijing cave, the fossils are estimated to be up to 780 000 years old and the only evidence of Homo erectus pekinensis.
During WWII, the prized fossils and tools were packed up and shipped to the United States to avoid being destroyed; unfortunately, the cargo never made it to port in Oinhuangdao. In 2005 the Chinese government organized a committee dedicated to recovering the lost pieces of its archaeological record, but some people believe the bones sank with the Japanese ship Awa Maru in 1945.
The Secret City of Paititi
Legends of the lost Inca city of El Dorado are actually referencing a city that was called Paititi. When the Spanish conquistadors came to South America, they declared war on the Inca civilization and drove the natives back further and further into the rainforests to hide. By the time Spain claimed the city of Paititi for its own, it was clear that the city had been deserted by most of its Incan inhabitants and the vast stores of gold were gone. The location of the new city was never found, and the gold of the Incas was lost to legend.
Recently, however, great stretches of deforested areas in Brazil show Google Earth viewers what treasure hunters have believed all along: there were indeed more Inca cities located in the depths of the Brazilian rainforest. The lost gold of Paititi may still be hidden away where Europeans have never treaded.
The Treasure of the Copper Scrolls
A pair of copper scrolls was found in 1952 within the depths of the same system of Jordanian caves in which the original Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1946. These scrolls turned out to be two separate pieces of one large scroll written in a unique derivation of Hebrew. Unlike the other Dead Sea Scrolls, this one details the locations of 64 separate treasures of gold and silver. Archaeologists believe that the scroll was created between 110 and 30 BCE, and that the treasures referred to in the text were from a Jewish temple. These were likely hidden away from Roman warriors who took control of the area around that time. The descriptions of locations on the scroll are imprecise, as if meant to be read by someone very familiar with the history of the area. Due to unspecific instructions, treasure hunters are not sure where to seek out this hidden wealth of gold and silver.
The Amber Room
In 1716, Prussian King Frederick William gifted the Russian Czar, Peter the Great, with a room whose walls were crafted from amber. The wall panels were elaborate and beautiful, and even hailed by some as the eighth wonder of the world. In 1941, the great Amber Room was taken apart and stolen by German soldiers, who took it to a castle in the city now known as Kaliningrad. At the end of the Second World War, the panels had disappeared completely. According to some researchers, the amber wall panels must have been destroyed during the Soviet siege of Kaliningrad; yet others believe that the panels were transported elsewhere prior to the destruction of the city.
A reconstruction of the Amber Room is currently on display in the Catherine Palace at St. Petersburg, Russia.
Lost Fabergé Eggs
When the Imperial Romanov family was violently ousted from power by Russian Bolsheviks in 1917, the treasures of the Czar’s family were confiscated. Among these were 52 elaborately-crafted and jeweled clockwork eggs, created by the House of Fabergé. The craftsmanship that went into these luxurious eggs is considered some of the finest the world has ever seen. Although all of the eggs were meant to be taken to the Kremlin, 8 of then mysteriously went missing upon transport.
Although the location of the missing eggs is unknown, rumors abound that some of the stolen Czar-era relics have travelled as far as the United States and England.
Quin Shi Huang’s Tomb
Quin Shi Huang was the the first Emperor of a unified China in the third century BCE. He ended a long period of war between Chinese states and brought his countrymen together to work towards a modern, illustrious Chinese Empire. As the most revered leader in all Chinese history, Quin Shi Huang was entombed in a vast underground city, surrounded by thousands of life-sized terracotta soldiers that were undiscovered until 1974. Other terracotta figures that have been unearthed include horses, chariots, musicians and concubines.
The excavation is only a fraction complete, however, due largely to legends that the massive underground tomb is surrounded by poisonous rivers of mercury. Archaeologists are attempting to open up more of the entombed clay city, but they need to move slowly and carefully to avoid poisoning the myriad of underground streams in the area. This means that untold treasures and the body of Quin Shi Guang himself have yet to be discovered.
Written by Mandy Gardner