Originally published on news.com.au
IT COULD have been captured by swashbuckling pirates, lost in a shipwreck, swallowed by mud or hidden by the Nazis.
Either way, legend has it incredible amounts of treasure are hidden around the world: gold, silver, pearls, religious artefacts, emeralds from the New World.
Even some of King John’s crown jewels, lost in 1216, are rumoured to be among the booty.
Gone are the days of tattered maps with a handy “X” marking the spot.
Bullion Vault, the world’s largest online gold investment service, has just released an infographic detailing the locations of seven treasure troves yet to be discovered.
WHEN FUN TURNS DEADLY
Indiana Jones made it look easy, taking on snakes, booby-traps, ancient clues and even Nazis on his escapades to claim lost artefacts.
The Hollywood hero, made famous by Harrison Ford, found everything from a golden fertility idol to an elusive 140 carat diamond, and even the Holy Grail.
For regular people, it can turn deadly.
A 54-year-old man’s body was found in the Santa Fe wilderness in July, following an obsessive hunt for bounty buried deep in America’s Rocky Mountains.
Randy Bilyeu was among thousands of treasure hunters seeking the riches rumoured to have been stashed in the hills by eccentric millionaire Forrest Fenn.
Fenn claims to have hidden treasure chest filled with his most valuable possessions after he was diagnosed with cancer — and though he beat the disease, he’s refusing to reveal the goods.
He spent 15 years planning the hunt, and though he’s written two books about it, he’s provided only a handful of cryptic clues.
Frustrated punters have targeted him with death threats, even digging up his mother and brother’s graves, as well as his own backyard.
“I’ve created a monster,” he admitted to Newsweek in 2012, but he’s standing by his decision.
The New Mexico Tourism Department says the loot is worth about $2.6 million.
BILLION DOLLAR NAZI STASH
The list also features the fabled Nazi Gold Train, which legend has it disappeared into a complex of tunnels in Poland during the dying days of World War II.
The purpose of the facility remains unknown, although speculation ranges from a secret nuclear research facility to a mountain hideaway for Hitler himself.
Nazis are believed to have stashed up to $37 billion in art and silver stolen from Jewish people during the Holocaust.
More than 9200 silver rings, estimated to be worth around $93 million, is believed to be hidden in Heinrich Himmler’s Wewelsburg Castle in northeast Germany.
An enormous hoard of gold is rumoured to have been sunk in Lake Walchen, in the Alps.
Masterpieces by Monet, Manet and Cezanne, once owned by Hungarian-Jewish industrialist Ferenc Hatvany, are thought to be buried in a silver mine near the Czech-German border.
And while a horde of lost art worth $1.8 billion was discovered in a Munich flat in 2012, the rest remains elusive.
Two treasure hunters spent $37,000 looking for the train in May, digging through a 100-metre ridgein the Owl Mountains, but they came back empty-handed.
STUMBLING UPON RICHES
Inevitably, striking it rich comes down to sheer dumb luck.
The greatest Viking hoard outside Russia was accidentally discovered by a group of English workmen in 1840, when they were repairing a river embankment.
They discovered around 8600 pieces of silver, weighing some 40 kilograms.
It’s a similar story with the Sroda Treasure, discovered during demolition work for a new telephone exchange in Poland in 1985.
The haul contained a gold crown, jewellery and a vase containing more than 3000 coins, estimated to be worth $129 million.
An enormous golden nugget known as the “Boot of Cortez” was unearthed in the Mexican desert in 1989 by a man who’d just bought a metal detector for fun.
Just a few months ago, two amateur divers stumbled upon a 1600-year-old shipwreckin Israel, containing ancient Roman artefacts which are yet to go on display.
ALWAYS ZIP YOUR LIPS
If you do happen to stumble across hidden treasure after years of hunting, researching, planning and downright obsession, you’d probably want to boast.
However, in most cases you’re better off keeping it to yourself.
Valuable loot of gold, silver and precious stones that sat in a watery grave for three centuries was discovered in the Caribbean in the 1980s, and it’s worth a whopping $3 billion.
“This is the most valuable treasure that has been found in the history of humanity,” Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos proudly declared, as the government became a whole lot richer.
The haul, aboard an 18th century Spanish ship San Jose, included 116 chests of emeralds, two tons of platinum and the personal wealth of the Viceroy of Peru.
It was lost in battle in 1708, when the British tried to capture it.
“I believe the ship’s side blew out, for she caused a sea that came in our ports,” HMAS Expedition Commodore Charles Wager wrote in his diary at the time.
“She immediately sank with all her riches.”
It’s unclear how much of the profits went to the salvage team who uncovered her.
The experts at Bullion Vault say the best bets for finding ancient treasure are the UK, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Poland and Taiwan.