If video games and movies like Indiana Jones are to be believed, the world is teeming with hidden treasures and caches of valuable items just waiting to be found. While that’s obviously not true, many fabled items and artifacts from history still remain missing. Many of them were looted or stolen by petty soldiers during the many wars of history, while others just disappeared among long lineages of royalty no one bothered to keep a check on.
10. Sarcophagus Of Menkaure
Some time in October 1838, the English schooner Beatrice set sail from Alexandria, Egypt, carrying the sarcophagus of the builder of the third pyramid of Giza – Pharaoh Menkaure. The ship disappeared during a storm, however, leaving behind one of the most intriguing and longest-lasting mysteries of Egyptian history. The exact location of the wreck and the artifact remains unknown, with various theories claiming its possible location at Gibraltar, somewhere between Malta and Spain, or near the Tuscan coast of Italy.
Many efforts have been made to locate the lost sarcophagus over the years, including a collaborative search by Spanish and Egyptian archaeologists in 2008. Recovering the cargo from one of its many potential locations, however, could pose many legal challenges, as the ship was a British vessel operating in Spanish territorial waters.
9. The Just Judges Panel
In April 1934, one of the panels from Jan van Eyck’s renowned Ghent Altarpiece was stolen from the St. Bavo Cathedral in Belgium. Also known as the Just Judges panel, the crime remains unsolved to this day, despite several efforts of the police and a series of letters from the thief available as evidence.
Karel Mortier, Ghent’s former Chief of Police, believes that there’s a high chance that the panel is hidden inside the Cathedral of St. Bavo. Based on that hunch, authorities have conducted systematic search operations of the cathedral with modern technology and sophisticated equipment, though the mystery remains unsolved.
The Ghent Altarpiece was completed in 1432 and is considered a masterpiece of early north-European painting. The polyptych, consisting of five central panels and eight double-sided wing panels, was reassembled in its original form after the First World War.
8. San Miguel’s Treasure
The ship called San Miguel was a part of a Spanish fleet dispatched from Cuba to Spain in 1715, carrying a massive treasure of American gold and silver. Loaded with possibly 14 million pesos worth of ingots, bars, and coins, it was the fastest and most heavily-laden ship of the fleet. It left a day before the other ships and was supposed to arrive safely in Spain, or that was the plan anyway. Things changed when a hurricane struck off the coast of Florida, capsizing or wrecking many ships that passed through Vero Beach. The San Miguel sank, along with other vessels, and an estimated 1,000 people lost their lives.
Despite salvage efforts by the Spanish colonial government, only about half of the treasure of the fleet was recovered. The rest – including San Miguel’s valuables – still remains buried somewhere under the depths, and no one has any idea where it might be. While several ships from the fleet and portions of their treasure have been discovered over the years, the exact location of the San Miguel treasure remains elusive.
7. Library Of The Moscow Tsars
The famous library of Ivan the Terrible is believed to have been founded by his grandfather Ivan III, when his wife first brought a collection of old books to Moscow, including manuscripts from the Library of Constantinople and the Library of Alexandria. Ivan the Terrible continued to add to the collection, resulting in a vast and impressive array of books and documents in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Egyptian, and even Chinese texts dating back to the second century. According to a 19th-century historian, the collection even included rare works like Titus Livius’ History of Rome and Cicero’s De republica.
It’s thought that the collection was kept in the basement of the Moscow Kremlin to protect it from frequent fires in the city, though that’s only one of the theories surrounding its ultimate fate. The library vanished from records after the tsar’s death, with some believing that it was destroyed in a fire. Many efforts have been made to locate it since then, with some experts – like Russian archaeologist Ignatius Stelletskii – dedicating their entire lives to the search. Sadly, the fabled collection remains lost to history even today.
6. The Second Temple Menorah
The Second Temple Menorah is an important symbol of Jewish history, dating back to around 600 BC. It was lost when a Jewish rebellion was quashed by the Roman empire and remains missing to this day, along with many other priceless artifacts housed across the city at the time.
There are many theories surrounding the fate of the Menorah. As it’s depicted on the Arch of Titus, some believe that it was taken back to Rome and displayed to the public in a triumphal parade by the victorious Roman forces. Others think that it was stored and displayed in the Roman Temple of Peace before completely disappearing from the historical record. It could also have been taken away somewhere else or destroyed during one of many tumultuous phases of the latter Roman Empire.
5. Florentine Diamond
The Florentine Diamond was a clear, pale-yellow stone weighing 137 carats, with a long and eventful history spanning over five centuries. Its origins trace back to India, where it was discovered by an unknown individual and eventually cut into a double-rose shape with 126 facets.
The diamond first gained global attention as a part of the collection of the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold. After his untimely death in 1477, however, it changed hands several times, eventually coming into the possession of the Medici family and Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. It then made its way to Maria Theresa of Austria through her marriage to the Duke of Tuscany, who incorporated it into the Austrian set of crown jewels.
The jewel would remain there until World War I, when the royal family fled Austria after Germany’s invasion and it disappeared for good. Some theories suggest that it may have been recut and sold in Geneva in 1981, possibly as a smaller stone originating from the original Florentine Diamond.
4. Michelangelo’s Mask Of A Faun
The Mask of a Faun, also sometimes called the Head of a Faun, was a marble-sculpted masterpiece created by Michelangelo when he was only 15 or 16 years of age. Believed to be a copy of another ancient piece, Michelangelo added his own details to the early work, which gained fame through publicity by Giorgio Vasari. It was initially displayed at the Uffizi Gallery before being transferred to the Bargello National Museum in 1865.
During the Second World War, art collections across Italy were moved to safe locations to protect them from artillery bombardment. Many of the sculptures housed at the Bargello Museum, including Michelangelo’s Mask, were evacuated to the Castle of Poppi in December, 1942. The castle was looted by the Germans on the night of August 22, 1944, resulting in the loss of numerous crates of art, one of which presumably held the Mask of a Faun. Despite various efforts to locate it since then, the Mask’s true location remains a mystery to this day.
3. Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
The legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine centers around the Superstition Mountains in Arizona – a place that has been associated with many types of myths and mysteries for centuries. The area contains ancient cliff dwellings and caves, with the original inhabitants believed to be Salado or Hohokam Indians. In its latter years, however, the Superstitions have become associated with the Apache tribe, as the mountains also served as an important Apache stronghold throughout the 1800s.
In the 1840s, the Peralta family from Mexico reportedly discovered rich gold mines in the region, though their expedition was eventually ambushed by the Apaches. Many other individuals have claimed knowledge of the mine’s supposed location, but their attempts to find it have often ended in disaster or other mysterious circumstances.
The Lost Dutchman Mine – as it’s now known – has since become one of the most famous lost treasures in American history. It still attracts many enthusiasts and experts from around the world, even if the mine is said to be cursed due to the numerous cases of individuals that have been injured or died trying to find it.
Paititi is believed to be a legendary lost city of the Inca empire located somewhere in the Peruvian Andes. Its exact location, however, has always been a mystery, and multiple attempts to find it have ended in failure, or even death. Even today, teams of scientists and explorers – like the Paititi Research project – are trying to find it by using advanced geo-information technology and other modern techniques, though to little success.
According to the legend, Paititi served as the last refuge of the Incas in the dying phases of the empire, possibly as a home to the Chachapoyas people in the north Cusco region. Many explorers have tried to find it using old maps and anecdotal accounts over the years, but the harsh, hot environment and difficult terrain of the region have made it almost impossible to properly scout the area.
1. Romanov Easter Eggs
Romanov Easter Eggs were a set of bespoke, themed eggs designed for Russian tsars by the House of Fabergé – a renowned Russian jewelry house that was seized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution. These eggs were elaborately designed and contained specific surprises depending on the receiver. While records exist for 52 of them, we only know the precise location of 46 today, leaving six of them completely lost to history.
Following the revolution of 1917, the House of Fabergé was nationalized, with most of its contents ransacked by the revolutionaries. The majority of the Fabergé eggs, along with many other treasures, were taken to the Kremlin Armoury, while others went missing during the looting of the palaces. While Lenin intended to preserve Russia’s cultural heritage and held them under state control, many of these artifacts items were sold to private collectors and museums around the world under Stalin’s rule. Initially undervalued, it took several decades for the eggs to be recognized as great, historical works of art, and most of them are valued in millions today.