On some level, all of us love stories of buried treasure and tales of lost fortunes. Whether the riches are inherited or pirated, they lay hidden in locations known only to those now long dead. Let’s be perfectly clear, buried treasure is not the same stuff found by archaeologists and metal detector users the world over. No, buried treasure is just that, it’s treasure, and in my mind the singular domain of pirates or criminals who for whatever reason left their booty behind, well hidden in a remote place, to retrieve later with the aid of a map.
There are many accounts of lost and found treasures and the idea of uncovering unimaginable wealth is seductive. Many of these supposed fortunes are likely to be myths, or, have been slowly and discretely spent. Take, for example, the German gold that went missing at the end of WWII. It is possible that this gold was smuggled to South America and introduced into the market? Or could it still remain locked in private bank vaults where it is impossible to claim. Is it not likely that the gold reserves of the last Tsars of Russia are now in the hands of new governments? And the Titanic? I’m thinking those treasures never existed in the first place – even though they did recently auction Wallace Hartley’s violin.
Still, you can’t help but dream. Imagine stumbling upon those Lost Faberge Eggs! Or uncovering the Treasure of the Knights Templar, especially given the hype from Indiana Jones movies and The Di Vinci Code? Sure, Long John Silver, Blackbeard, and even Captain Kidd may all come to mind when one imagines looted treasure being buried for later retrieval. What we do know is that any map worth its treasure, whether tattered or tattooed, has an “X” to mark the spot to locate those hidden gems.
More commonly in fiction than in reality, these maps are often hand drawn and contain arcane clues to aid the user in finding the loot. One of the earliest suspected instances of a treasure map is the copper scroll, which contains a list of over 60 locations with detailed directions pointing to hidden stores of gold and silver. It was written between 500 and 100 AD. But is it real?
I can’t help wonder how do you get your hands on one of these maps? Who among us hasn’t longed for a crinkled map to fall out of the back of an old dresser or Grandmother’s photo album? And, what about the crazy luck of the Scooby-Doo Gang finding a treasure map in their pizza box?
I have a standard for what I consider to be treasure, and I suspect I’m not alone. For example, most, and I solidly place myself in this camp, would NOT consider a bottle of Gallo Rose to be a treasure. Gold bullions? Absolutely! And yet, recently, a treasure hunt has presented itself to us involving a ghost, a pirate and some buried stash!
Here’s the back-story: Many years ago, a cheap bottle of Rose wine appeared in our house, left behind after being re-gifted by a party attendee. Hey! Party-attendee! Thanks for that! When friends called one night to invite us over for a drink, we could hardly show up empty handed so we did the only thing available at the moment and showed up with a half empty bottle of a lovely wine we had started earlier and the re-gifted bottle of plonk, the now infamous Rose. Not a particularly high-class move on our part, but it was at least an honest gesture.
Since that evening, this bottle has made the rounds between our houses. Like a bad penny, it keeps turning up unexpectedly: one time standing proudly in a refrigerator; another time mixed into a case of wine; another, left on a front door step. When we moved, our friends smuggled it into our house on their first visit, leaving it behind in the shower only for us to discover it as they drove off down the track. However, Dartmoor magic prevailed and this same bottle made its way to their front door, over 200 miles away, just a few days later. Back and forth, back and forth, the now speckled-with-paint-from-a-house-decorating-project bottle of Rose joined our friends on a ski trip in France, but failed to make it across the Atlantic to join us in Montana for a birthday celebration weekend with friends. The cunning deception, detailed planning and execution of this bottle traveling between our two households continues and escalates.
Until recently, I thought the idea of coming across a treasure map was the stuff of legends. But the other day an email arrived in my inbox entitled firstname.lastname@example.org and attached within — a treasure map!
In addition to landmark clues, the treasure map we received contained a helpful message, “Treasure buried under large rock. Good luck treasure hunters. Wooooo oooo ooo.” Honestly, look for yourself:
Feeling a little like Nancy Drew, I suggested to Roger we head out in the dark in search of this missing treasure. We donned our wellies and fleeces, grabbed flashlights and invited our faithful hound, Sam, to join in the hunt. We committed the map to memory and headed out into the dark. No self-respecting treasure hunt would be complete without ample atmosphere and we had it in spades. The clouds obscuring the moon made for an eerie glow and the surrounding mist mostly ate the light from our flashlights. We took each step with care across the rocky and boggy path indicated on our map. To add to this atmosphere, a Tawny Owl hooted in the distance as if cueing a spectral ghost, or more to the buried treasure plot, an evildoer hell-bent on stealing our map and thus the buried treasure, to appear and lead us to our doom.
At the end of the trail, we located the large rock, moved it aside and unearthed a cylindrical container swathed in plastic. Inside was the bottle of Rose. What is one person’s hidden treasure is another person’s discovered poison. Now, we await the return of those who entombed their valued goods, securing the memory of its location with a well-drawn map. We are prepared to happily return this Rose to its rightful owners.