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Treasure of Villena, one of the most important prehistoric golden tableware findings in Europe. Tesoro de Villena.jpg
Treasure of Villena, one of the most important prehistoric golden tableware findings in Europe.

Treasure (from Latin : thesaurus from Greek θησαυρόςthēsauros, "treasure store" [2] [3] ) is a concentration of wealth — often originating from ancient history — that is considered lost and/or forgotten until rediscovered. Some jurisdictions legally define what constitutes treasure, such as in the British Treasure Act 1996.


The phrase "blood and treasure" has been used to refer to the human and monetary costs associated with massive endeavours such as war that expend both. [4]

Searching for hidden treasure is a common theme in legend; treasure hunters do exist, and can seek lost wealth for a living.


Buried treasure is an important part of the popular mythos surrounding pirates. According to popular conception, pirates often buried their stolen fortunes in remote places, intending to return for them later (often with the use of treasure maps). [5]

There are three well-known stories that helped popularize the myth of buried pirate treasure: [6] "The Gold-Bug" by Edgar Allan Poe, "Wolfert Webber" by Washington Irving and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. They differ widely in plot and literary treatment but all are derived from the William Kidd legend. [7] Stevenson's Treasure Island was directly influenced by Irving's "Wolfert Webber", Stevenson saying in his preface "It is my debt to Washington Irving that exercises my conscience, and justly so, for I believe plagiarism was rarely carried farther.. the whole inner spirit and a good deal of the material detail of my first chapters.. were the property of Washington Irving." [7]

Howard Pyle illustration of pirates burying Captain Kidd's treasure, from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates Pyle pirates burying2.jpg
Howard Pyle illustration of pirates burying Captain Kidd's treasure, from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

Although buried pirate treasure is a favorite literary theme, there are very few documented cases of pirates actually burying treasure, and no documented cases of a historical pirate treasure map. [8] One documented case of buried treasure involved Francis Drake who buried Spanish gold and silver after raiding the train at Nombre de Dios—after Drake went to find his ships, he returned six hours later and retrieved the loot and sailed for England. Drake did not create a map. [8]

The pirate most responsible for the legends of buried pirate treasure was Captain Kidd. The story was that Kidd buried treasure from the plundered ship the Quedah Merchant on Gardiners Island, near Long Island, New York, before being arrested and returned to England, where he was put through a very public trial and executed. Although much of Kidd's treasure was recovered from various people who had taken possession of it before Kidd's arrest (such as his wife and various others who were given it for safe keeping), there was so much public interest and fascination with the case at the time that speculation grew that a vast fortune remained and that Kidd had secretly buried it. Captain Kidd did bury a small cache of treasure on Gardiner's Island in a spot known as Cherry Tree Field; however, it was removed by Governor Bellomont and sent to England to be used as evidence against him. [9] Over the years, many people have tried to find the supposed remnants of Kidd's treasure on Gardiner's Island and elsewhere, but none has ever been found. [8]


Map created by Robert Louis Stevenson for his 1883 novel Treasure Island Treasure-Island-map.jpg
Map created by Robert Louis Stevenson for his 1883 novel Treasure Island

A treasure map is a variation of a map to mark the location of buried treasure, a lost mine, a valuable secret or a hidden location. One of the earliest known instances of a document listing buried treasure is the copper scroll, which was recovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls near Qumran in 1952. More common in fiction than in reality, "pirate treasure maps" are often depicted in works of fiction as hand drawn and containing arcane clues for the characters to follow.

Treasure maps have taken on numerous permutations in literature and film, such as the stereotypical tattered chart with an oversized "X" (as in "X marks the spot") to denote the treasure's location, first made popular by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island (1883) or a cryptic puzzle (in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold-Bug" (1843)).

See also

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William Kidd also known as Captain William Kidd or simply Captain Kidd, was a Scottish privateer. Conflicting accounts exist regarding his early life, but he was likely born in Dundee and later settled in New York City. By 1690, Kidd had become a highly successful privateer, commissioned to protect English interests in North America and the West Indies.

<i>Treasure Island</i> Novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, telling a story of "buccaneers and buried gold". It is considered a coming-of-age story and is noted for its atmosphere, characters, and action.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Villena</span> City in Valencian Community, Spain

Villena is a city in Spain, in the Valencian Community. It is located at the northwest part of Alicante, and borders to the west with Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia, to the north with the province of Valencia and to the east and south with the province of Alicante. It is the capital of the comarca of the Alto Vinalopó. The municipality has an area of 345.6 km² and a population of 34,928 inhabitants as of INE 2008.

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Captain J. Flint is a fictional golden age pirate captain who features in a number of novels, television series, and films. The original character was created by the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894). Flint first appears in the classic adventure yarn Treasure Island, which was first serialised in a children's magazine in 1881, and later published as a novel in 1883.

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A treasure map is a map that marks the location of buried treasure, a lost mine, a valuable secret or a hidden locale. More common in fiction than in reality, "pirate treasure maps" are often depicted in works of fiction as hand drawn and containing arcane clues for the characters to follow. Regardless of the term's literary use, anything that meets the broad definition of a "map" that describes the location of a "treasure" could appropriately be called a "treasure map."

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  1. [Spanish] Culture and Education Ministry (26 February 2003). "RESOLUCIÓN de 7 de enero de 2003, de la Dirección General de Patrimonio Artístico de la Consejería de Cultura y Educación, por la que se incoa expediente de declaración de bien de interés cultural a favor de la colección arqueológica del Tesoro de Villena" [January 7, 2003, RESOLUTION of the General Direction on Artistic Heritage of the Culture and Education Council, which opens a file on the declaration as Good of Cultural Interest (BIC) the archaeologic collection known as Treasure of Villena](PDF). Boletín Oficial del Estado (in Spanish) (49). Madrid: Spanish Government: 7798–7802. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2009. Desde el punto de vista histórico, artístico y arqueológico, el Tesoro de Villena constituye un «unicum», un depósito no normalizado, por su peso y contenido (A. Perea). De hecho, se trata del segundo tesoro de vajilla áurea más importante de Europa, tras el de las Tumbas Reales de Micenas en Grecia (A. Mederos). (From a historic, artistic and archaeological point of view, the Treasure of Villena constitutes a "unicum", a non-normalised deposit, according to its weight and content (A. Perea). In fact, it is the second most important golden tableware finding in Europe, after that of the Royal Graves in Mycenae in Greece (A. Mederos))
  2. ""treasure" – Online Etymology Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2018-05-02. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  3. θησαυρός Archived 2021-01-23 at the Wayback Machine , Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus. The word has a Pre-Greek origin (R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 548).
  4. Lichfield, Gideon (22 August 2017). "A history of the "blood and treasure" phrase Trump keeps using about the war in Afghanistan". Quartz. Archived from the original on 2020-06-20. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  5. Stewart, Charles (December 2003). "Dreams of Treasure". Anthropological Theory. 3 (4): 481–500. doi:10.1177/146349960334005. ISSN   1463-4996. S2CID   61425777.
  6. Paine, pp. 27–28
  7. 1 2 Paine, pg. 28
  8. 1 2 3 Cordingly, David. (1995). Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. ISBN   0-679-42560-8.
  9. The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd, pg. 241, The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd, pg. 260