How to Find Buried Treasure

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In 2011, archaeologists discovered $22 billion in gold and jewels in a South Indian temple. According to UNESCO, over 100 shipwrecks—each holding at least $50 million—are waiting to be discovered. Treasure is everywhere! So grab your metal detector and shovel and get ready to be more interesting. Here’s how to find the sort of riches that would make Blackbeard jealous.

1) Learn Some Math

It was 1817, and Thomas J. Beale and his men had just discovered gold and silver in the Rockies. To keep their loot safe, they quickly shipped it to Virginia and buried it somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beale then wrote three ciphers—complicated number puzzles—describing the treasure’s location, contents, and owners. Only one of the ciphers has been decoded so far. Break this code, and you may land $60 million.

2) Know the Lingo

One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll lists the whereabouts of 63 stashes of gold and silver—riches rumored to have been lifted from Solomon’s Temple. To find the treasure, you’ll need working knowledge of Mishnic Hebrew and an ability to read sloppy handwriting. Owning an ancient dictionary is a plus. Scholars continue to struggle with the Scroll’s vocabulary.

3) Break Out Your Snorkel

Lake Guatavita in Colombia inspired the legend of El Dorado and once served as a holy site for the Muisca people. During one particular Muisca ceremony, the tribal ruler would coat himself in gold dust, raft out to the middle of the lake, and toss gold to the bottom. In 1911, a British company drained the waters, recovering some artifacts. But the silt quickly baked dry like concrete, trapping most of the gold. The lake has since been refilled, so you’ll need permission before you go treasure hunting.

4) Visit Davey Jones’ Locker

Stuffed with Alfonso de Albuquerque’s war spoils, the Spanish ship Flor de la Mar sank in 1511. It reportedly held 600 tons of gold and 200 chests of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. That makes it the priciest sunken treasure in the world, totaling $3 billion! The ship, however, has never been found. It’s somewhere in the Strait of Malacca, between Sumatra and Malaysia.

5) Head to Austria

Operation Bernhard was a German scheme to cripple American and British economies by flooding them with forged currency during World War II. When the plan crumbled, panicked soldiers dumped crates of phony currency into Austria’s Lake Toplitz. Along with the faux dough, tons of gold plunder was reportedly sent to the lake’s bottom. To get to it today, you’ll need a permit. Diving was banned there in the 1960s when the lake proved to be a deathtrap. It’s 300 feet deep, mostly oxygen-starved, and littered with logs. There are some hoaxes down there, too. In 1984, locals sank a crate full of bottle caps. Inside it said, “Sorry, not this time.”

Good luck with your hunt! And even if you come up empty, you can still feel like a million bucks by cracking open a Dos Equis.