The Hunt is On: Top 5 Undiscovered Mythical Treasures

Posted - February 20, 2024
undiscovered mythical treasures

Movies like National Treasure have firmly cemented the dream of uncovering hidden riches in our cultural imagination. While the Declaration of Independence doesn’t actually hold the key to a long-lost American treasure trove, there very likely is billions of dollars in gold, silver, and platinum hidden in caches around the world. 

Today, we’re walking readers through five of the biggest undiscovered mythical treasures in the world. This journey will take us across nearly every continent, introducing us to some of the most influential – and wealthy – cultures in the history of mankind. 

Some of these treasures are likely real; archeological evidence and historical documentation suggest that the Nazis did bury quite a bit of gold somewhere in Austria. Other treasures on our list are myths, although thousands of treasure hunters each year might beg to differ! 

Top 5 Lost Treasures

Our picks for the top 5 undiscovered mythical treasures in history span thousands of years and highlight five of the most influential cultures humanity has ever seen. 

There are quite a few massive gold and silver hoards that didn’t make our list. To keep things simple, we stuck to five of the most recognizable undiscovered mythical treasures. 

Below, we’ll give you a brief breakdown of the most famous hidden treasures in history: the Egyptian Pharaoh Treasure, the Treasure of Montezuma, Ancient Incan Gold, the Loot of Lima, and Nazi Gold thought to be hidden in an Austrian lake. 

Egyptian Pharaoh Treasure

The Ancient Egyptians were known for their opulence and the vast riches of their wealthiest classes. Because of the relative abundance of gold along the River Nile, the Ancient Egyptians actually considered silver to be more valuable than gold. 

Legends hold that a vast Ancient Egyptian treasure holds an unprecedented amount of both precious metals, though. 

Several powerful Egyptian Pharaohs lay at rest in a region known as the “Valley of the Kings.” When explorers discovered King Tut’s burial chambers, they found millions of dollars worth of treasure. This makes sense, as Egyptian religious traditions held that the dead carried their wealth into the afterlife. Therefore, Pharaohs were often buried with their riches. 

But when adventurers managed to break through into more previously undiscovered tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs in the centuries that followed, they were met with a surprise: the treasure rooms were empty. 

Where could all of these treasure troves have gone? The treasure of the Pharaohs is one of the world’s greatest undiscovered mythical treasures. 

Estimated Value

It’s impossible to accurately guess the value of these particular undiscovered mythical treasures. Because so many different tombs appear to have been emptied, it’s likely that one secret burial site may hold the combined wealth of several of the richest Egyptian rulers in history. 

Translation: this undiscovered mythical treasure is likely worth hundreds of millions – and probably more. 

Potential Locations 

Because it’s unlikely that even a highly motivated group of thieves could successfully excavate and clear these treasure rooms by themselves, most historians contend that the culprit must have been a powerful leader in Ancient Egyptian times. 

Some evidence points to Herihor, who served as an official on the imperial court of Pharaoh Rameses XI.  Following the leader’s death, Herihor executed a plot to steal the throne for himself. 

Curiously, he also placed himself and his team in charge of reburying the Pharaohs whose tombs sat in the Valley of the Kings. 

Unfortunately for would-be treasure hunters, Herihor’s tomb has never been located. This means that one of the world’s most valuable undiscovered mythical treasures may never be found. 

Treasure of Montezuma 

For our American readers, the next of our picks for the top 5 undiscovered mythical treasures might very well be within our own national borders. 

A core part of Southwestern American folklore, the tale of Montezuma’s treasure is tough to pin down. According to one rendition of the legend, the treasure hoard was created to help the Aztecs in Mexico and Southwestern America hide their riches from invading Spanish conquistadors. 

Aztec Calendar 1 oz Silver Round
Aztec Calendar 1 oz Silver Round

After Spain’s marauders demanded a ransom from captured Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II, messengers from his kingdom warned all tribes to stash their treasures away. 

The historical veracity of this claim is hotly debated. Most historians believe that the legendary treasure of Montezuma is nothing but folklore capitalizing on the myth of Aztec opulence and the brutality of the conquistadors. 

But to a dedicated group of modern treasure hunters, the only legendary thing about these undiscovered mythical treasures is their vast wealth and mystery. 

How Much is it Worth? 

Like the gold of the Pharaohs, it’s tough to pin down a precise value of Montezuma’s treasure. We can, however, use evidence of the culture’s gold deposits to extrapolate a rough estimate of how much the Montezuma treasure could be worth. 

When Spain invaded and decimated the Aztecs, they immediately noticed the extensive deposits of gold in the region. According to one estimate, Spain was able to take over 200 tons of gold bullion from the mineral deposits within Aztec land. 

If this much gold was left after the collapse of the Aztec empire, it’s undeniable that the treasure of Montezuma must be truly massive. 

Failed Attempts to Locate the Treasure

As one of the most notable undiscovered mythical treasures, it should come as no surprise that scores of adventurers have tried to locate the legendary treasure of Montezuma. 

No effort to recover the gold hoard has ever been successful. This hasn’t stopped the tale from taking the public imagination by storm; hundreds of short stories and television episodes have centered around the massive treasure and efforts to recover it. 

Ancient Incan Gold 

For over 500 years, treasure hunters have obsessed over undiscovered mythical treasures from the Ancient Incas. The Incas themselves are the subject of hundreds of conspiracy theories. Their ancient culture was far more advanced than many other cultures in the region, which makes great fodder for theorists. 

The truth behind the legend is disputed by historians, but some believe that Incan King Atahualpa hid millions of dollars worth of gold, silver, platinum, and jewels somewhere within his empire. 

The Story and the Myth 

According to popular legend, conquistador Francisco Pizarro kicked off the destruction of the Incan Empire in 1532. When he captured King Atahualpa, the ruler of the dying Incan Empire attempted to make a deal. 

Atahualpa was a smart man; he’d observed the Spaniards and knew that their obsession with gold and other treasure was boundless. He offered Pizarro a room filled with gold and silver in a desperate attempt to save his own life. 

Although he was persuaded by the offer, Pizarro’s paranoia got the best of him. He had King Atahualpa killed less than a year later. 

But what became of the King’s treasure? This question has stumped both historians and treasure hunters for centuries. 

Searching for Lost Incan Treasures

An Incan general named Ruminahui was in charge of transporting the gold necessary to secure his King’s ransom. The legend behind one of the world’s largest undiscovered mythical treasures is that he was on the way to his King when he heard of the leader’s execution by Pizarro. 

2024 1 oz British Gold Britannia Coin
2024 1 oz British Gold Britannia Coin

Ruminahui obviously didn’t continue his trek to San Miguel de Piura to deliver the gold. The question that’s puzzled historians and hunters since the 16th century: where, then, did the treasure go? 

Some think that the Incans hid their treasure in a cave somewhere in their empire. Others believe the tons of gold and silver were instead dumped into lakes or rivers. 

Unfortunately, this treasure has never been recovered – and it remains a hotly contested myth among Ancient Incan historians. 

The Loot of Lima

Lima is the capital of Peru. For centuries, the city has been a mecca of trade, culture, and art. But the ownership of Lima has shifted hands at least a couple of times since the 16th century. In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors overcame Incan resistance to impose their rule over Peru’s capital. 

Unlike the treasure of Montezuma and the Incan gold urban legend, historians generally believe that there was a treasure cache worth around $208 million transported from Lima by William Thompson, a Spanish naval commander. 

When Thomson and his men saw the extent of the riches, they murdered guards and priests on their ships before attempting to escape with the Loot of Lima

Rumor has it that Thompson stashed the treasure somewhere near Cocos Island near Costa Rica. After everyone on his crew except for himself and his first mate were executed for the piracy, Thompson acquiesced to Spanish authorities, leading them to the location of the treasure. 

However, Thompson had one more trick up his sleeve. As the group hit a thicket of jungle outside the Cocos Islands, he and his first mate made a dash for the tree line and escaped, never to be seen again. 

Like Thompson and his first mate, the Loot of Lima seemingly disappeared…

Decades of Fruitless Searching

For nearly two centuries, Cocos Island has been a popular tourist destination for prospective treasure hunters. As one of the world’s most valuable undiscovered mythical treasures, the Loot of Lima would be the haul of a lifetime for anyone who deciphers the clues and finds it for themselves. 

Unfortunately, this story ends the same as many of our picks for the top undiscovered mythical treasures of human history. Eventually, the Costa Rican government banned treasure hunting, publicly announcing their belief that the treasure is not present on the Cocos Islands. 

The Future of Lima’s Loot

It’s unknown whether or not the Lima Loot is hiding somewhere near Costa Rica. Some theorists believe that the loot may not be anywhere close to Cocos Island, but that this island was merely a clever ruse to allow the two thieves to escape justice by fleeing into the forest. 

Given Costa Rica’s ban on foreign treasure hunters, we may never know if this great undiscovered treasure is really hiding beneath the beautiful beaches and forestry of Costa Rica’s Cocos Island.

Nazi Gold in Austria 

This final pick for the top 5 undiscovered mythical treasures of all time is much more modern. During the dark days of World War Two, the Nazis amassed one of the biggest gold hoards in the history of mankind. 

Aztec Eagle Warrior 1 oz Silver Round
Aztec Eagle Warrior 1 oz Silver Round (New)

These ill-gotten gains mostly came from confiscations of Jewish property during the Holocaust. In total, some historians estimate that the Nazis held a jaw-dropping $8 billion (in today’s money) worth of gold bullion in Switzerland’s Swiss National Bank. 

Only around half of this money was ever recovered. Some analysts say that the gold and other riches were shuffled around in European banks before being stolen by various high-ranking German officials who survived the war. 

To others, the answer may lie in Lake Toplitz, an Austrian lake where excavations have already revealed some of the Nazi’s most valuable assets.

Rumors Versus Reality 

Speculation about Nazi gold has persisted since 1945. It’s important to separate fact from fiction. One pervasive rumor concerns the “Nazi gold train,” a train made from pure gold thought to have been hidden in Poland at the conclusion of the world. 

While we seriously doubt explorers will one day hop aboard a decades old train of gold bullion, it is true that the Nazis accumulated one of the biggest gold hoards in history. 

And when a joint operation of scientists used explosive charges to help excavate Lake Toplitz, they made a surprising discovery: around $757 million in counterfeit Euros. The money was part of a Hitler scheme to sabotage England’s economy, but the plans fell through as Allied forces secured their victory. 

An Ongoing History Mystery 

A full and complete excavation of the lake has yet to happen. Austria banned exploring the lake in 1963 after the last of several deaths of explorers looking for the hidden Nazi riches. 

Historians still debate the likelihood that the Nazis really his billions of dollars in gold bullion underneath the Austrian Lake, and it’s possible that we may never know what secrets the body of water truly holds. 

Final Thoughts: The World’s Biggest Undiscovered Mythical Treasures

Everybody loves a good treasure hunt. Today, we took a look at five of the top undiscovered mythical treasures from several of humanity’s most powerful – and notorious – cultures. 

While we don’t recommend our readers hop on a ship or plane or don diving gear to search for lost ancient treasures, it’s always fun to explore some of humanity’s biggest mysteries. 

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About The Author

Michael Roets is a writer and journalist for Hero Bullion. His work explores precious metals news, guides, and commentary.