Treasure hunting in the Renaissance era

Dec 2014
1,082
Europe
#1
I came across this article about explorers and treasure hunters in the mountains of southern Poland/northern Czech: Walloons - Medieval treasure hunters : Karpacz

It's interesting how it talks about the different kinds of people who came there during the 15th and 16th centuries and the symbols and markings left in the area by miners and treasure seekers, likely to mark locations of dig sites and valuables.

This got me thinking about what treasure hunting was like in that era. Nowdays treasure seekers use metal detectors and computer technology, and we've uncovered more historical knowledge to use to follow up on old legends. But what was it like five or six centuries ago?

Renaissance was era when antiquarianism took off. Were some of these scholars among those going off in search of lost places or treasures? What kind of resources would treasure hunters use to direct their searches? What would some of the more popular legends have been in that era? Who would some famous figures in this field have been? And how much was it tied to development of archaeology in early modern era?

Sorry for so many questions, but I recon this is one of the right places to be asking. :)
 
Last edited:
Dec 2014
1,082
Europe
#4
I found this little snippet when I was searching Google Books:

For a long time rumors had been circulating that rich treasures in Gold and other valuables lay under the Takal Makan sands among the ruins of ancient cities. Folklore had it that these ancient cities had been destroyed without warning in punishment for the wickedness of their inhabitants...

...Sudden destruction of wealthy cities encouraged speculation that buried under the sands was lavish treasures hastily abandoned when the inhabitants fled or met an untimely end. Prevailing folklore had it that anyone who tried to retrieve these treasures from their resting places would die a violent death or otherwise suffer at the hands of demon desert gods. In the 16th century, a tyrannical Amir of Province of Kashgar used slave labor to conduct a treasure hunt in the ancient city Kingdom of Province Khotan. Years later to the surprise of none he was beheaded in his sleep.
Full quote is here. And this book gives a bit more information.

Anyone else know similar stories? :)
 
Dec 2014
1,082
Europe
#7
Not a treasure hunter, but I found some info on a French renaissance scholar Pierre Belon who traveled around the Near East and recorded some observations and studies of historic sites there, including the pyramids of Egypt. There is a link here which mentions him and some other Europeans who conducted studies and measurements of the pyramids during the renaissance/early modern era:

Exploring the Pyramids and Mummy Fields - University Press Scholarship
 
Jan 2015
2,902
MD, USA
#8
Sometime in the middle ages, the King of England (I want to say Henry II or III, don't recall exactly) told his subjects to dig up all those old mounds they might have on their land, to get all the gold and treasure out of them.

One of my favorite anecdotes is the finding of what was apparently a gold Anglo-Saxon crown, in the 17th century. It was melted down for the gold.

And one of the English kings in the early 20th century was using a gold Bronze Age cup as a shaving cup! That one makes me laugh, I love it when they take those laws about "Crown property" literally. (This story and the first one I think are from Colin Burgess' "Age of Stonehenge", sorry I don't have a good citation!)

Matthew
 

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