Posted by Allison on 5 April 2009, 11:09
There is something about the idea of buried treasure that appeals to us all. And if there is money involved – especially that of a bygone age – then our attention is piqued even more.
While the stories about buried treasure, treasure maps and coins worth a small (and sometimes not so small) fortune are widely known and read about, there are plenty of people who have actually discovered some buried treasure of their own.
Of course, there is a big difference between the pictures our minds generate of buried treasure, and what we actually find. However that doesn't make the smallest finds any less significant.
If you have ever gone out with a metal detector you will probably have hoped to dig up an old coin or two in the process. In fact, many people manage to do just that – mainly because of how we as humans used to deal with our currency.
It's important to remember that coins have been around for many centuries and just as we lose coins now by accidentally dropping them without realising, so did our ancestors. But more than that, they didn't have banks to put them in for safekeeping. That is why stories and tales abound of buried treasure practically all over the world. Our ancestors often tucked their valuables away in a strong box of some kid – often wooden – and buried it for safekeeping. If for any reason they didn't return to that box during their lifetime and no one else knew about the currency held within, that box would stay buried unless and until someone else happened to come across it in years (sometimes centuries) to come.
Of course not all types of currency were able to withstand the passage of time. Banknotes are particularly prone to being damaged in many ways, especially if they become exposed to water over a long period of time or are burnt either partially or fully. Even coins aren't immune, although if you are lucky enough to find a truly ancient coin you may find one that has either been cut in half or even into quarters. This obviously isn't damage done by time and the elements themselves – it was actually done in order to give change to someone who had given a trader a higher valued coin.
It's an intriguing thought to realise that there are probably a lot of ancient coins and currencies of different types and from different times still buried beneath the ground we walk on. Even areas which have been systematically gone over with a metal detector can still hold their secrets; once you know that a metal detector can only detect the presence of coins at a fairly shallow depth you will realise that there are bound to be hidden treasures and currencies all over the world that the amateur treasure hunter will never find.
It stands to reason that those coins which are more commonly found tend to be those which weren't really buried at all; they were simply covered over after having been accidentally dropped. If someone wanted to intentionally bury something they would do so much further down.
While we are on the subject of buried treasure and buried coins, we cannot leave the subject without making a mention of the mysterious so called Money Pit on an island off the coast of North America.
This is a mystery which has its beginnings stretching back more than two hundred years to a time when a teenager discovered what he thought was a patch of ground whose earth seemed to have been disturbed at some point. Curious – as any teenager would be – he started digging, and set off a chain of events that would continue right up to the present day, unearthing a strange stone with some kind of message written on it, and claiming several lives in the process.
It isn't known what lies at the bottom of this pit, but many believe there is treasure of some kind to find. Fragments of coins were found during one digging expedition, and a translation of the message on the stone claimed to say that forty feet below the spot where the stone was found, two million pounds lay buried.
However this stone was found at around eighty feet below the earth's surface and digging has since gone down as far as two hundred or so feet. With that said however, one expedition is said to have revealed footage of what appeared to be a treasure chest along with partial human remains, so perhaps there is buried treasure down there after all.
The mystery has certainly intrigued people over the past two centuries and who is to say it won't continue to do so for many more? One thing is certain – a lot of people believe that there is a vast amount of old currency and treasure down there, and despite the rising costs and risks associated with digging a hole so deep (combined with the fact that various booby traps seem to have been added to the whole contraption, making the shaft fill with water every time someone gets so far down) there is no reason to suspect that someone won't continue to look for this supposed treasure until it is finally found.
Then there was the discovery of at least one tunnel leading from the beach to flood the original Money Pit if anyone got close to the bottom; this only served to reinforce the belief that there really was something down there. The number of levels and barriers which occurred every ten feet or so certainly seemed to indicate that someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create this pit.
In the end, people love the idea of digging up artefacts and lost currency of another age. Whatever the truth behind the so called Money Pit really is, it is certainly an intriguing story and many people would rather the search goes on than it be discovered that there is in fact nothing there at all.
One of the chief reasons why we are so interested in and fascinated by finding ancient stashes of coins is that they aren't like the coins we have today. Our coins have no real value in their content, whereas many ancient coins were made from gold and silver. Imagine stumbling across a treasure chest filled with these; not only would they be worth a small (or perhaps not so small) fortune, they would also provide a window into the past.
That is the charm that old coins have to offer us. You don't need to be a coin collector to be intrigued by finding an ancient coin. It's the process of wondering how it came to be where it is and more importantly who handled it last which really catches the imagination on fire.
It may well be that no one discovers the secret of that Money Pit during our lifetimes. But if anyone ever does reach the bottom and successfully brings up whatever might be down there, it will almost be a shame to end one of the biggest treasure hunts – and mysteries – the world has ever seen. It's almost certain that the Money Pit, even after two hundred years, isn't ready yet to give up its secrets.