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Mexican Aztec turquoise god or symbol with gold accents from the center of the Aztec or Mayan calendar

The world's greatest treasure mysteries

Long-lost treasure isn’t just the stuff of novels and movies. Many believe that there are immense riches out there, just waiting to be found by the right intrepid adventurers. Here are eight tantalising possibilities.


In Deadman’s Curse, prospector Kru Williams, young Indigenous explorer Taylor Starr, and her father, master carver Don Froese, join seasoned legend hunter and mountaineer Adam Palmer to finally solve the mystery of Slumach's lost gold mine. The treasure-hunting foursome may have an ancestral connection to the legend and the gold, but extreme weather, unforgiving terrain, and a 100-year-old curse all stand in their way.

The second series of Deadman's Curse starts Wednesday, 22nd May on Sky HISTORY.

1. Blackbeard’s treasure

When Blackbeard was killed in battle in 1718, it brought the career of history’s most notorious pirate to an appropriately violent end. But his legend continued to grow after his demise, with generations of treasure hunters wondering where he hoarded the loot that he’d plundered.

It’s been speculated that Blackbeard’s mysterious booty is somewhere in North Carolina – perhaps on his old haunt Ocracoke Island or lurking within the wreck site of his legendary ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. But these are just theories. Blackbeard’s alleged boast, that nobody but himself and the Devil would ever know where his treasure was hidden, continues to ring true.

2. El Dorado

There are a number of lost cities which are said to be resplendent with riches, but the most famous is undoubtedly El Dorado. This outlandish myth evolved from accounts of the indigenous Chibcha people, whose leaders covered their bodies in gold dust and submerged themselves in a lake as part of a sacred ceremony. 

Such stories fired up the imagination of European explorers, from Spanish conquistadors to Sir Walter Raleigh, who trekked deep into South America in search of a fabled city of gold dubbed El Dorado. Needless to say, no such lavish location has ever been found.

3. The Merchant Royal

On 23rd September 1641, the English trading ship Merchant Royal ran into trouble and sank off the coast of Cornwall, taking with it a king’s ransom of gold, silver, coins and precious gems. It’s been speculated that the long-lost cargo could be worth at least £1 billion in today’s money, although this figure has been debated.

Whatever the precise monetary value, there’s no denying the Merchant Royal’s status as the ‘El Dorado of the sea’. The ship certainly remains as maddeningly elusive as the lost city of gold, with salvage companies still seeking what could well be the most valuable wreck of all time.

4. Montezuma’s Aztec treasure

Montezuma II was the last great emperor of the Aztec Empire, killed during the Spanish conquest of what is now central Mexico. His dramatic downfall came after the arrival of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, and – while exact details have been lost in the haze of history – we know that Montezuma was killed in his palace in Tenochtitlán.

Cortés and his men were forced to flee, and it was during this frantic escape that it’s said they dumped a heap of treasure they’d looted from Montezuma’s estate.

The question is, what became of the Aztec loot? Is it at the bottom of Lake Texcoco in Mexico, or was it recovered and taken north into the contemporary United States? Whatever the truth, it’s a mystery worthy of Indiana Jones.

5. The Oak Island treasure

Oak Island, Nova Scotia is the site of the best-known treasure hunt of modern times. As chronicled in The Curse of Oak Island, brothers Rick and Marty Lagina have ploughed their time and resources into exploring an island which has inspired fevered speculation ever since three teenage boys discovered a mysterious shaft in the late 18th century.

There are rampant theories about what might be buried on Oak Island, from Captain Kidd’s loot to a Knights Templar treasure trove and the jewellery of Marie Antoinette. Perhaps, one of these days, the truth will finally be known.

6. The Amber Room

Can an entire room be a lost treasure? It can, if it happens to be made of amber, gold and precious stones, and if it’s dismantled and put away where nobody will ever be able to find it.

That was the fate of the Amber Room, an opulent lair which was created for Prussia’s Frederick I in the early 18th century. It was then gifted to Russia’s Peter the Great, which meant it had to be taken apart and meticulously reconstructed in the Catherine Palace, just outside St Petersburg.

Then, in 1941, the room was dismantled again – this time by Hitler’s forces, who took it back to Germany where it was put on display at Königsberg Castle. Its fate since then remains a mystery. Could it have been destroyed by an Allied air raid, or was it whisked away for a final time, to destinations unknown?

7. Yamashita’s Gold

Tomoyuki Yamashita was a brutal general who led Japanese forces during World War II and was later executed for war crimes. Although he’s mainly remembered for the conquest of Malaya and Singapore, his name has also been applied to war loot allegedly taken by Japanese troops and hidden in caves and tunnels in the Philippines. 

Yamashita took the secret of where any such treasure was buried to the grave, but that hasn’t stopped adventurers from seeking it out. The pursuit of the buried treasure even led to a bizarre, multi-billion-dollar lawsuit involving the notoriously corrupt Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

8. The Three Brothers

Crafted in the late 14th century, the Three Brothers is a now-legendary piece of jewellery consisting of a diamond surrounded by three ruby-like gems.

Originally owned by Duke John the Fearless of Burgundy, the piece ended up becoming part of the British Crown Jewels and can be seen in portraits of Elizabeth I and James VI and I. Unfortunately, that’s the only way it can be seen since the Three Brothers vanished during the reign of Charles I.

It may have been broken up and sold as separate jewels, or it may be stashed in some long-forgotten nook. In any case, it remains one of the most intriguing lost treasures of all time.