Fact is often stranger than fiction and the world is littered with whispered stories, rumors and tall tales about the mysteries of times past. The mystery about some of the most famous treasures in the world is that they once existed, but have since vanished. There are records of them, drawings or paintings and descriptions to prove their existence but, somewhere along the way, they were lost in the throes of history. Whether stolen, lost or purposely hidden, these treasures have eluded explorers. This list will guide you through some of the world’s most opulent, extravagant and luxurious artefacts that remain hidden. Grab your treasure map and make a plan and let’s get exploring!
10. The Amber Room
The Amber Room was a gift to Russian Czar Peter the Great from Prussian King, Frederick William in 1716. The room was dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the world because of its absolute beauty. The room consisted of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors. Construction of the room took over ten years and required the work of numerous skilled craftsmen, and sculptors. The room has great value, both financially and historically and today it would be valued at almost 200 million. It disappeared during World War II and it is believed that it was looted by Nazi Germany and brought back to Germany. Its whereabouts were lost in the chaos at the end of the war and there is no shortage of whispered conspiracy theories regarding its final resting place. The whereabouts of the wondrous room are still unknown, though; there are many theories as to what happened to the room. Among them are that the room was burned during the extensive bombings, the panels were buried inside a German castle, buried along the German border or that the panels lay with a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean.
9. Treasures of Lima
In order to protect the treasures of Lima from pillage, the viceroy of Lima decided to transport them to Mexico for safekeeping. He loaded up 11 ships with goods valued at 60 million. Among those riches were two lifesize statues of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. The Captain of the Queen Mary fleet, William Thompson, was a pirate and quickly captured the booty once the ship set sail. The Captain and his men switched course to the Cocos Islands and decided to bury the treasure for safekeeping until the situation had died down. However, the Queen Mary was captured and the crew was hanged save for the captain and his first mate. In a desperate plea to save their lives, the two agreed to bring the Spanish to the treasure but managed to escape into the jungle before revealing their prize. The Captain was never heard from again and the treasure remained a mystery. To this day, over 300 expeditions have desperately sought the treasure, though it has remained elusive.
8. Lost Faberge Eggs
Faberge eggs were created by Russian Peter Carl Faberge, as Easter gifts for Russian royalty. It took him a year to create an egg from its conception to its final state. The eggs are opulent and made of gold and covered in diamonds, rubies, sapphires and other gems. Sixty-five eggs were crafted by Faberge for the royal family over the years. After the Russian Revolution, the eggs were sold off in a bid for currency and many of the eggs were considered lost. Seven of the eggs have been lost, yet there are photos of the eggs to prove their existence. In 2014, one of the lost eggs was found in the US at an antique market. The egg was purchased for $14 000 US, by a man intending to sell it for scrap. It wasn’t until after some research that he realized the value of the egg. The eggs have been known to sell for 20 million dollars and collectors around the world will stop at nothing to get an egg. There are still two out there that experts believe have survived the political tumult over the years. It is estimated the lost eggs could fetch up to 150 million.
7. The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant is a chest described in the Book of Exodus, as containing the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. According to biblical texts, the ark was created by Moses at the behest of God. The Israelites believed that this ornate chest was the most holy and sacred artefacts in the nation. The chest was made of acacia wood and pure gold. The ark disappeared after the Babylonian overthrow of the kingdom. Legend says that the ark was hidden by the Israelites to safeguard it during the Babylonian occupation, while some say that God himself took the box. Holy texts have placed the ark anywhere from Egypt to Ethiopia. Whether the ark actually existed or still exists is a thing of mystery but one thing is for sure: people are still looking for it.
6. Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb
Qin Shi was born in 259 BC and was the king of one of six independent kingdoms inside China. Shi was an intelligent man and through a combination of luck and expert military strategy, he was able to conquer all the other kingdoms inside China, thus making him not only a king but the first emperor of China. Upon his death he was entombed in the most extravagant tomb ever constructed in China. The tomb was the size of a small city and contained a vast network of roads and goods that would serve him in the afterlife. Chinese historian Sima Qian, writing a century after the Emperor’s death wrote that over 700 000 men were needed to build the tomb. Over 6000 terra cotta warriors were around the tomb to help protect the emperor as he ascended into the afterlife. The whereabouts of the tomb are known by the Chinese people. In fact, the tomb lies in a large hill in central China and it is said that the technology to get into the tomb does not yet exist. People also believe a legend that states that a poisonous river of mercury surrounds the tomb and many Chinese believe it is best not to disturb the elders. Soil samples near the site have revealed that there is in fact very high levels of mercury in the area. Scientists and archaeologists have been digging at the site since the 70s, when the first terra cotta warriors were discovered.
5. The Pharoah’s Treasure
Everyone knows about the vast treasures contained within ancient Egyptian tombs. Kings were buried with all the bounty they would need to secure them a place in the afterlife. Thus, it is no surprise that the tomb of high priests Heridor, Piankh and Menkheperre are some of the most sought after tombs, especially because they have eluded discovery for thousands of years. Heridor was an army officer and High Priest of Amun at Thebes. A British archaeologist said that, “when Herihor’s tomb is found it will make Tutankhamun’s tomb look like a display at Woolworth’s”. This same archaeologist believes he has found clues as to the whereabouts of the tomb and is desperately trying to secure the site.
4. The Lost City of Paititi ( A real life El-Dorado)
Much like the story of El-Dorado, the legend of Paititi states that a vast city with hordes of Incan gold and artefacts is hidden somewhere in the rainforest, just waiting to be discovered. The city of Paititi is said to lie deep within the Brazilian rainforest. For years, historians and scholars believed the story to be fictional. However, rapid deforestation in the rainforest has changed the way people are reading the stories. In 2009, satellite photos emerged that showed that there had once been large settlements in the Boco de Acre region of Brazil and forced archaeologists and historians to re-think their earlier assumptions. Could there be a lost city of gold nestled among the trees? Only time will tell.
3. Dutch Schultz’s buried safe
Dutch Schultz was an American mobster who made most of his money bootlegging alcohol. He was being investigated by the IRS for tax evasion so Schultz got a safe made and he placed 7 million dollars in bank notes, and bonds into the safe. He then drove the safe somewhere in upstate New York with his bodyguard and buried it. The secret whereabouts of the safe died with Schultz and his bodyguard Rosencrantz, who were both shot before the location was revealed. At the time of his death, Dutch was thought to be worth millions but no trace of his money was ever seen.
2. Yamashita’s Treasures
During WWII the Japanese army looted parts of South East Asia and stole millions of dollars in gold and other treasures from banks, temples, depositories, museums and private homes. It is believed that they were going to use this money to fund the war effort. In order to keep the booty safe, the army is said to have hidden the treasure in caves and underground tunnels in various locations across the Philippines. The Japanese hoped to ship the treasures home after the war ended but were worried about the ships being downed by Allied forces. People are still searching for the treasure to this day and the conspiracy theories around the mystery abound.
1. Copper Scrolls
The copper scrolls are scrolls etched into copper, dating back thousands of years. The scrolls were found in the same location as the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran in 1952, by a British Archaeologist. The text on the scrolls is written in an ancient form of Hebrew that was difficult to decipher. The text contains 64 locations which are supposed to contain treasures of gold and silver. The directions are highly complex and are written in a way that assumes the reader would have very intimate knowledge of the region and would be able to understand the allusions and complex references from the time period. The treasure is estimated to be in the tons and would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars today. Scholars are puzzled by the cryptic sayings on the scrolls and continue to search for clues as to the whereabouts of the colossal missing treasures.