Sunken ships, buried riches, hidden caves, and private documents have held some of the world’s most precious and spectacular treasures. Throughout history, valuable objects like jewelry, coins, paper money, gems, weapons, statues, silverware, and documents have been uncovered in spontaneous and sometimes even mysterious ways. Most of the ancient artifacts and treasures that have been discovered hold tremendous cultural and monetary value. Even though it seems like all of the ancient, hidden artifacts have been uncovered, some of the world’s greatest treasures are actually still waiting to be discovered.
There are many reasons why some of the world’s most valuable items have been lost and forgotten. Most of the time, the owners of these goods have suffered tragic fates either through wars, colonialism, and natural disasters. Other times, these treasures have been hidden purposely to be protected from theft and damage. Despite the differences between these legendary treasures, each ancient item reveals historical truths about the specific culture, society, and economy at that specific time.
Here are 25 long lost ancient items that have been discovered and their monetary worth.
25 Ringlemere Gold Cup - $520,000
In 2001, a retired electrician named Cliff Bradshaw discovered the Ringlemere Gold Cup in the English county of Kent. Like many other discoverers, the Bronze Age vessel was found using amateur archeology and metal detecting.
The Ringlemere Gold Cup is one of only seven similar “unstable handled cups” to be found in Europe during the periods between 1700 and 1500 BC. Even though it was damaged by a plow before it was found, the British Museum still bought it for $520,000.
Sources: History, Cracked, CNBC, National Geographic, BBC, CNN
24 Ty Cobb Baseball Cards - 1 Million
Often times some of the world’s greatest treasures aren’t all that ancient. When a Californian family was clearing out their late great-grandfather’s home, they stumbled upon a brown paper bag. While many of us would just throw the tatty bag away, the family decided to look inside and were gifted with seven (they later found eight) super rare Ty Cobb baseball cards.
The cards, which date back to 1901, were originally included in packs of cigarettes. The cards are so rare that apparently only 15 of them actually existed.
23 The Hand Of Faith - $1.1 Million
The Hand of Faith is the second largest intact gold nugget in the world and largest gold nugget to ever be discovered by hand using a metal detector. The 960-ounce (60 pounds) Hand of Faith was found by Kevin Hillier near the small town of Kingower, Australia in 1980.
Nowadays, the Hand of Faith is displayed in the hotel lobby of the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas for the general public to see. It is currently the largest gold nugget on public display in the world.
22 Santa Margarita Gold Chalice - $1.3 Million
While holidaying in Key Largo in 2008, a diver named Mike DeMar decided to test out his metal detector during an expedition. He stumbled upon an ancient chalice and almost disregarded the treasure as mere junk. After clearing away the debris and getting it appraised, Mike realized that his find valued $1.3 million.
The golden chalice is over 385-years-old that had most likely come from a ship called the Santa Margarita, which sank off the coast of Key Largo in 1622.
21 The Boot of Cortez - $1.5 Million
In 1989, an amateur treasure hunter from Senora, Mexico bought a cheap metal detector from Radio Shack and took it to the desert to try out. After a few days of tedious searching and disappointment of recovering tons of junk, the prospector was able to find a gold nugget weighing 26.6 pounds.
The gold nugget is the largest surviving gold nugget to even be found in the Western hemisphere. Because of its significant size, it earned the name “Boot of Cortez.”
20 The Watlington Hoard - $1.8 Million
The Watlington Hoard, a collection of Viking silver, was rediscovered in Watlington, Oxfordshire, England in 2015 by James Mather, an amateur metal detectorist.
Dating from the end of the 870s, the Watlington Hoard contains over 200 Anglo-Saxon coins, ingots, and Viking jewelry. These coins shed light on how the once-great kingdom of Mercia was reclaimed by the emerging kingdom of England by Alfred the Great. The hoard shows the cultural clash of the time between the English and the Vikings.
19 The Cuerdale Hoard - $3.2 Million
Discovered by workmen in 1840 in Cuerdale, Lancashire, the Cuerdale Hoard is said to be the largest collection of Viking silver ever discovered outside of Russia. The hoard had more than 8,600 9th Century silver items.
The coins from the collection reveal that they were probably buried between 905 and 901, shortly after the Vikings were expelled from Dublin in 902. Silver formed the basis of currency in the Viking Age and was often buried during times of unrest.
18 Crosby Garrett Helmet - $3.6 Million
In 2009, an unemployed graduate in his early 20s, using a metal detector on a farmland on the outskirts of the Cumbrian hamlet of Crosby Garrett found a Roman helmet. After some research, the finder discovered that the item was used as a Roman parade helmet.
At an auction that took place in 2010, the bidding for the helmet surpassed all expectations. An anonymous bidder purchased the bronze piece for £2.3 million. The helmet is now privately owned and is kept in a private estate.
17 The Staffordshire Hoard - $3.9 Million
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork to ever be found, anywhere in the world. This haul was discovered buried beneath a farmer’s field in Staffordshire in July 2009.
The treasures date back to the 7th Century and include over 1,500 items made of gold and silver and embedded with precious stones and jewels. Most of the items were warfare related, including helmets and crests. The quality and intricacy of the pieces show that they were owned by royalty or noblemen.
16 The Hoxne Hoard - $4.3 Million
The Hoxne Hoard is the largest hoard of late 4th-century Roman gold and silver to ever be discovered anywhere in the Roman Empire. The hoard, which was found in the village of Suffolk in England, contains a collection of gold and silver coins, jewelry, spoons and other silverware.
The British Museum in London bought the artifacts, but since it was so valuable, they had to call in funds from donors, like the National Art Collections, so that they could afford to purchase it.
15 The Saddle Ridge Hoard - $10 Million
In 2013, while taking their dog on a daily walk across their property, a couple noticed a rusty can jutting out of the ground. Mixed in with dirt and stones, they noticed a collection of $20 gold coins. After repeated trips to the site, the couple uncovered a total of eight cans filled with 1,427 rare U.S. coins.
The coins, which date back to 1847-1894, had a face value of $27,980, but after being appraised they were worth about $10 million.
14 5th Magna Carta - $15 Million
The Magna Carta is a charter created in 1215 by King John of England. Initially, this document was created to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebels. However, this document established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king.
In 2015, an edition of the Magna Carta was found in the achieves kept in Maidstone. It is believed that there are only 24 editions of the Magna Carta around the world, but some versions might still be missing.
13 Gunnel Lioness - $57.2 Million
The lioness-woman sculpture is said to be one of the oldest artifacts of Mesopotamia. The Guennol Lioness is an Elamite figured believed to have been crafted around 3000-2800 BC. The 8.3cm (3.25in) tall sculpture was found in the early 20th century by Sir Leonard Woolley near Baghdad, Iraq.
The limestone figurine depicts one of the ancient Near East deities. The combination of animal and human forms are believed to have helped Mesopotamians gain various strong physical powers from superior species.
12 The Belitung Shipwreck - $80 Million
An Arabian boat sailing from Africa to China around 830 AD sunk right off the coast of Indonesia, while holding millions of dollars’ worth of treasures. Based on its location, it is believed that the ship sunk on their return journey. The Belitung Shipwreck was discovered in 1998 by Indonesian fisherman while they were searching for sea cucumbers.
The Belitung Shipwreck is the first Arabian ship to ever be found and excavated. Some of the treasures included: crystals, rubies, sapphires, silver flasks, and the largest gold cup ever found.
11 Ship Of Gold - $100-150 Million
In September 1857, the SS Central America ship carrying nearly six hundred passengers crashed two hundred miles off the Carolina coast. Over four hundred people died and twenty-one tons of California gold were lost. For more than 150 years, this hidden treasure was lost at the bottom of the ocean.
In the 1980s, the first expedition was launched to recover the sunken treasure. In 2014 the search continued - There were 3,100 gold coins, 10,000 silver coins, 45 gold bars and more than 80 pounds of gold dust recovered from the wreckage.
10 The Antikythera Treasures - $120-160 Million
In 1900, Greek sponge divers set off on the world’s first major underwater archaeological expedition to the coast of Antikythera, Greece to recover items from a ship that sunk in 65 B.C.
The treasures included: pottery, weapons, full, bronze statues, glassware, jewelry, coins, and copper couch beds. Along with the other treasures, the Antikythera “Mechanism” was discovered, which is believed to be the world’s oldest analog computer. It has pointers that display the positions of the sun, moon, and planets, a star calendar, eclipse prediction dial, and even a timetable of athletic events, like the Olympics.
9 Titanic - $300 Million
Even though the treasures on the original Titanic ship didn’t quite measure up to the $1.8 billion revenue the movie grossed in, there were still millions of dollars in riches aboard. For a passenger ship, this voyage was carrying a spectacular collection of priceless gold, silver, and stone jewels, artifacts and artwork.
The ship was discovered in Newfoundland, Canada in 1985 by a Franco-American expedition. Nowadays, most of the pieces are on display at one or more permanent and traveling exhibits.
8 The Whydah Gally - $400 Million
Discovered in 1984, the Whydah Gally is the only pirate ship to ever be found in history. The ship, which was located off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, was a former slave vessel that belonged to the rich pirate Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy. Black Sam, who has been named “Robin Hood of the sea” is said to be the highest-earning pirate of all time.
The ship that sunk in 1717 held more than 200,000 artifacts, including the ship’s bell, gold jewelry, gold coins, and cannons.
7 Black Swan Project - $500 Million
In 2007, Odyssey Marine Exploration found over $500 million worth of gold and silver coins off the coast of Portugal. The coins were recovered from the wreck of a Spanish frigate ship, which sank in 1804 carrying over 17 tons of gold and silver cargo.
The Black Swan Project was the largest and richest shipwreck treasure recovery to date. After a lengthy legal battle between the Spanish government and Odyssey, Spain gained control of the artifacts and now display them in various public museums around the country.
6 The Merkers Mine - $520 Million
$520 million of Nazi riches were “lost” during World War II. When Germany was losing the war, the Nazi government decided to store their riches in a place called the Merkers Mine in Thuringia, Germany.
The same year, the US army recovered paper money, gold, and artwork that belonged to the Nazis. Apparently, the German government has been trying to get all their riches back after the Americans confiscated it back in 1945. It is believed that there are still billions of dollars of Nazi treasure hidden around Europe.
5 King Tutankhamun's Tomb - $850 Million
On November 26, 1922, the entrance of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings. The discovery of King Tut’s tomb and the glittering treasures inside unleashed a global passion for ancient Egypt. It also drew plenty of speculations about ancient Egypt curses. After one of the discoverers, Howard Carter, died a few months after opening the tomb, it was believed he unleashed the “mummy’s curse.”
Some of the ancient treasures found in his tomb were: Tut’s gold burial mask, a statue of Anubis, Tut’s gold fan, a gold leopard head, and a royal chariot.
4 Venus De Milo - $1 Billion
In 1820, a Milos island farmer was digging up ancient ruins in his field to get some stones he needed but ended up discovering one of the most famous statues in the world – the Venus de Milo, or Aphrodite of Milos.
Now on display in the Louvre in Paris, the Venus de Milo has been dated back to about 150 BC. This statue has been said to be an example of a sculpture from the Classical period. Now, the Venus de Milo is one of the most celebrated sculptures of ancient Greece.
3 The Dead Sea Scrolls - $1.2 Billion
The Dead Sea Scrolls have proven to be a priceless discovery because of their tremendous value to religion, linguistics, and secrecy. The Scrolls, which were discovered between 1946-1956, contain fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except for the Book of Esther.
One of the most intriguing manuscripts from the collection is the Copper Scroll – An ancient treasure map that contains information about dozens of gold and silver caches. None of the underground hiding places have been identified yet, but it is estimated that the treasure has a value of $1.2 billion.
2 San José Galleon - $17 billion
The San José was a 62-gun, three-masted Spanish ship carrying gold, silver, and emerald from the mines of Potosi, Peru. It went down when sailing from Panama to Colombia in 1708 after losing a battle with British ships in the War of the Spanish Succession.
The treasures were discovered off the coast of Cartegena, Colombia in 2015. Ever since its discovery, there have been long and tedious legal battles between private companies and various governments. Aside from money, the San José discovery included cultural and historical artifacts that shed light into the economic, cultural, political, and social climate of Europe in the 18th century.
1 Indian Temple Hoard - $22 Billion
In the underground vaults of a 16th Century, Hindu Temple in Trivandrum, India, treasures worth over $22 billion were found in 2011. The treasure, which spans over 500 years, consists of gold coins, jewels, solid-gold statues of gods and goddesses, and diamonds.
After the discovery, the state sent 24/7 security to guard the temple. It still hasn’t been decided on whether the treasure will remain as the property of the temple or be given to the state. It is very common for temples in India to hold ancient treasures and riches.