Starting with Jason’s search for the Golden Fleece, which is an early example of how a series of mostly physical challenges and puzzles leading to the final treasure.
Then we witness Humphrey Bogart recovering the lost Knights Templar treasure in a murder mystery based treasure hunt. Then there are two early examples of treasure hunt based comedies, which are of interest because firstly we have Vincent Price setting a challenge for people who wish to inherit from his estate in Scavenger Hunt, followed by Michael J Fox’s first film appearance in Midnight Madness. An interpretation of a cultphenomenon in Seattle called The Game that runs to this day. An extremely popular overnight challenge to see who can get to the end of a series of themed puzzles first for nothing more than bragging rights.
At the latter part of the 20th century there was an explosion of treasure hunt based films. The Da Vinci Code is just one big puzzle. Hollywood directors fell in love with the subject matter, leading to major film franchises capturing the public imagination repeatedly. And the thing that links them all: Treasure hunts.
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The definition of treasure hunting nowadays has evolved from archaeological digging up of lost treasure to solving a series of puzzles to reveal a final answer or reward. There is a cult activity in Seattle called The Game that is a treasure hunt but has no treasure at all – the winners, who are the first to solve a series of diverse challenges, instead claim nothing more than bragging rights over fellow participants.
Going back to it’s original meaning, allow us to introduce you to the grandaddy of treasure hunting. The gentleman to your left is Mr Heinrich Schleimann. He analysed and dissected Homer’s Illiad to discover the lost location of Troy in Turkey in 1873.
Ten years later Robert Louis Stevenson published Treasure Island. The significance of this is that it is the first time we see the glamorisation of pirates, treasure maps, buried treasure and X marks the spot.
Advances in technology resulted in a couple more finds far more recently, especially in the field of diving. In 1985, Mel Fisher recovered $450m of gold and silver from the 1622 Spanish ship, Nuestra Senora de Atocha. The discovery, consisting of pieces of eight, emeralds (the source of the emerald city) and jewellery is more commonly known as the Atocha Motherload. Over two decades after the death of Fisher, they are still recovering articles from the site – so far they’ve got less than half of the recorded payload.
In the very recent history, Dave Crisp using a metal detector uncovered a hoard of 52,000 Roman coins in Frome, Somerset. He has been hunting for over 24 years without great success and in one week discovered two.
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