Treasure Hunting


The thought of finding a can filled gold coins under the rotting remains of a ghost town, or an old box crammed with a kings ransom is the relentless pursuit of those looking for buried treasure. Others search used book stores for another kind of wealth; rare books that tell about lost worlds. No one can deny the Excitement of discovering something that was lost, or overlooked by everyone else.

During a social event, an old acquaintance handed me a drink and remarked, "You know Bonnie, my major was history and I don't understand some of the things you wrote about it." Our conversation was interrupted by others, so I never got to tell him that it didn't matter. I was probably looking for more information...Dangling a journalist line in the local newspaper hoping to catch something. That is, someone who shared my interests off the beaten path traveled by history tourists. I use provocative bait, not generally known, gleaned from detailed research buried in the archives of old books. Eye witness accounts combined with legends unfold an exciting panorama of history that often conflicts with popular belief.

The world is a big place full of buried treasures. Legends are the clues that lead to discovery. I'll never forget the story about Heinrich Schliemann, the self taught archaeologist who lived around a hundred years ago. As a boy his father read him the lyrics of the blind minstrel Homer. They were stories about lost worlds. The boy was enthralled, and as he grew to manhood he nourished this passion to find them. During his life, Schliemann exerted great effort and eventually found the magnificent treasures of his dream.

Those who venture beyond the security of the mundane are the explorers of new frontiers. Many years ago I joined an adult writing class at the high school that was being taught by a prominent sports writer. During a break from class while some of us were conversing, one man mentioned that he'd lived on the pacific island of Ponape (or Pohnpei) for a couple of years. Some scientists believed some of the islands were man made, and he'd heard a fascinating lecture by Dr. Saxe (of Ohio University), who was researching the local ruins. At right are some giant slabs that were used in the construction of Nan Madol. Just before moving back to the states, a native showed him a ruined city on a nearby mountain. I asked him if he knew about the sunken city off the coast that early pearl divers described as having streets and houses with names on them. One "house of the dead" contained platinum caskets that the Japanese melted down and exported. He was hoping to get a job that would take him back to the island, and evidently the man was contracted to return to Pohnpei on a dam project...He later reported that while he was there some Australians were filming the submerged city for posterity. I found it satisfying that native legends related that the islands were part of a "celebrated kingdom," which, in turn corresponds with the oldest mythology in the world and fossilized human works heavily scattered throughout the American continent and Pacific.

What does this mean? I think it illustrates that you can live somewhere and still not know what's on top a nearby hill, or even beneath your feet...unless someone, or legend makes you aware of its existence. When I was enrolled in Writers Digest School I harped on my favorite subject...the cradle of civilization being on the American Continent. My professor made little comments like, "I didn't know this...or that," and when I mentioned Dr. Saxe, he became excited that he knew him and was anxious to talk to him about his research.

The interest in ancient history, archaeology and ancestors appears to be growing. I was among approximately 800 people who shared an interest in rare books on these subjects that were assessable through the "Round Robin," Health Research's system at Mokelumne Hill years ago. Once I requested Sir Richard Burton's "Exploring the Highlands of Brazil" containing Lady Burton's  translation (from Portuguese) about an ancient ruined city. It was this old account that prodded Colonel Percy Fawcett, to search and explore other dead cities throughout the Amazon basin and foothills. He'd noticed that the inscriptions carved on the great sealed flagstone in the first city matched those he'd seen on a boulder in the jungle near Ceylon. A Sinhalese expert told him that the meanings of the glyphs would change with the rays of the sun; that this type of inscription recorded the cache, in time of calamity, of an immense treasure laid underneath. To make a long story short, Fawcett could never again find the boulder in Ceylon, and later disappeared with his son and a photographer in the South American jungle, so the treasures remain hidden.

As for Burton's book, Round Robin found one for which the owner wanted $100. I dallied until some friends urged me to buy it. Unfortunately they'd sold the book after bidding had reached $1,000. As you can see, treasure hunting requires so much sleuthing that even if you never strike it rich...you're guaranteed to have a wonderful time getting to know more about our world.