Mystery of world’s lost treasure worth millions – and where it might be buried

It's every treasure hunter’s dream – discovering a gleaming stack of loot that could net the finder a fortune.

Throughout history, especially during war or disaster, there have been many occasions where riches have simply gone missing.

If you were lucky enough to find it today, it could line your pockets with hundreds of millions of pounds.

But where on Earth could it be? And is it likely to be found any time soon?

Here, in one of six features included in your free Daily Star pullout on Friday March 5, NATASHA WYNARCZYK takes a closer look at the stories behind some of the world’s vanished valuables…

Montezuma’s Treasure

In 1519, Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés arrived in the Aztec Empire and was greeted by Emperor Montezuma II, who offered him precious gold and silver to leave in peace.

But after the greedy Spaniards attempted to ransack the city, there was a rebellion and Cortés was forced to flee, dumping the treasure in the waters of Lake Texcoco in Mexico.

According to a popular legend, the riches lie on the bottom of the lake – and many have attempted to find it without success.

Another story says that 2,000 men retrieved the gold and silver and marched it north, perhaps all the way to southern Utah in the States.

Blackbeard’s Treasure

Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, was history’s most notorious pirate, sailing around the West Indies during the early 18th century and preying on ships heading back to Spain laden with gold, silver and precious jewels.

In 1718, Blackbeard was killed by a British naval force, but the fearsome pirate had hidden his treasure and not told anybody its location.

Treasure hunters have been unsuccessfully searching for the lost valuables – estimated to be worth a massive £350million – ever since, following clues that have led them to destinations including the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands and North Carolina.

Nazi Gold

During the 1930s and 40s, Germany’s ruling Nazi regime looted valuable treasures from Jewish families and museums all over Europe.

It was even rumoured that a train belonging to the fascists carried 300 tons of gold and jewels to Austria through a secret network of tunnels.

It’s also thought that Nazi officials hid billions of pounds of gold in Austria’s Lake Toplitz.

The only thing discovered there so far were containers filled with millions of pounds of forged currency from Allied nations, which were found in 1959.

This was part of a Nazi plan to devastate enemy economies by making inflation rise and prices soar out of control.

The Florentine Diamond

Believed to be the largest pink diamond in the world, and boasting a mega 137 carats, the Florentine Diamond was owned by the Austrian Habsburg royal family.

After World War One, the family deposited the precious gem in a Swiss bank vault, entrusting it to a lawyer named Bruno Steiner.

Then, the jewel went missing and in 1924 Steiner was charged with fraud, but later acquitted.

The whereabouts of the Florentine Diamond is unknown, but it’s been rumoured that it was taken to South America with some of the Habsburg’s other royal jewels, or brought to the US, recut and sold.

The Ark of the Covenant

According to the Hebrew Bible, this was a gold chest that held the tablets engraved with the 10 Commandments that God gave to Moses.

This chest was kept in the First Temple, the most sacred site on Earth for Jews, but was destroyed in 587 BC when a Babylonian army conquered Jerusalem and ransacked the city.

The location of the Ark of the Covenant has long been a source of speculation – some claim it resides in the St. Mary of Zion cathedral in Aksum, Ethiopia, but others say it was completely destroyed and will never be found.

There’s even one theory that it was brought to Earth by ancient aliens, who took it back with them.

Treasure of Lima

In 1820, as the forces of Argentine general José de San Martín advanced on Lima, Peru, the Spanish authorities attempted to save the riches they had collected since they had conquered the Inca Empire in the 16th century.

They entrusted British naval captain William Thompson to hide the treasure aboard his ship, but Thompson killed the Spanish people who brought it to him and took off with the loot.

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It’s believed to have since been buried on Cocos Island in Costa Rica, but more than 300 expeditions have tried and failed to find it.

The massive hoard is believed to be worth almost £150m and includes a life-sized gold image of the Virgin Mary encrusted in gems, as well as silver, diamonds and gold.

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