Friday Five… Lost Treasures that Still Need to Be Found


No wonder humans are so obsessed with having their own share of such a precious element… According to recent calculations, all the gold that has ever been discovered in the world could fit under the legs of the Eiffel tower.

But that’s only if it can all be recovered. How much of it was once someone’s prized possession, got lost in a struggle for ownership and is now lying out there, just waiting to be stumbled upon by some lucky archaeologist? Metal detectors at the ready… Here’s our top five treasures that still need to be found!


1. Bad King John’s Crown Jewels

Bad King John

In 1216 King John was journeying with his guards to Norfolk, via The Wash – a large expanse of marshes and mudflats. On the way, Bad King John came down with dysentery. Turning back (probably in a hurry!) he made it safely home, but his unlucky guards were trapped and drowned by the incoming tide.

Bad as he was, this probably didn’t bother the king so much, apart from the fact that along with his guards went carts carrying all his possessions, including none other than the crown jewels. The question is, is this just a myth? Or are there really rubies running in the river?

2. Treasure of Copper scrolls

Copper Scroll

We all know the Dead Sea Scrolls are an incredibly important archaeological find; among them are some of the oldest copies of parts of the bible, information on how the Bible was written, knowledge of Judaism during the time of Christ and… a list of 64 sites with hidden gold and silver just waiting to be discovered. So where is it?

This copper scroll (the others were all either papyrus or leather) has  some pretty clear instructions: ‘In the funeral shrine, in the third row of stones are a hundred gold ingots… in the ascent of the ‘staircase of refuge’, to the left-hand side, three cubits up from the floor are forty talents of silver.’ The problem isn’t just finding these elusive shrines and staircases… It’s hoping that the Romans didn’t get to them first!

3. Lake Toplitz Treasure

Lake Toplitz

Lake Toplitz. This is supposedly where, in a desperate attempt to save their treasure from the approaching allied forces, Nazi troops sealed their treasures into iron boxes and and sunk them into the deepest, darkest depths of the lake.  There’s been much speculation about what they contain, from traditional gold booty to priceless works of art. Eventually, someone just had to find out!

In 1959 there was an effort to retrieve some of the boxes. Inside, they found £72 million in forged sterling currency and copies of a planned attempt to ruin the British economy. But the rest on the lake floor and  some large tree trunks block the way down and their contents are likely to remain a mystery… at least for now.

4. Knights Templar’s Treasure

Knights Templar

After Jerusalem was captured by crusaders in 1099, the Knights Templar took it upon themselves to protect any Christians heading that way on a pilgrimage. All round nice guys, they gradually became the wealthiest and most powerful military order in Europe. But their wealth and power soon began to unsettle those in high places. In 1307 Philip VI arrested the key leaders while Pope Clement II gave orders for all other members to be arrested. Their possessions were seized and re-distributed to other orders.

So what happened to all those knights whose arrests had been ordered? And whatever became of their wealth? All we know is that several thousand men and a whole flotilla of ships seem to have vanished into the night, taking all their treasure with them…

5. Montezuma’s Treasure


Montezuma, leader of the Aztecs, was just about as rich as they come. He was killed in battle with the Spanish and the Aztec people removed his many jewels and riches for safe keeping (or so the story goes). But in 1914, a prospector named Freddy Crystal (you better believe it!) found an etching on the side of a cliff in Kanab, Utah that matched an old treasure map that supposedly led to the hoard.

Along with the help of the townspeople, Freddy searched the area. Amazingly, he did find a network of man-made caves and tunnels, but they were empty apart from pottery sherds and some deer and rabbit bones. After two years searching Freddy gave up. Anyone fancy a trip to Utah?

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Written by Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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