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Treasure hunting is the physical search for treasure.
In modern times
In recent times, the early stages of the development of archaeology included a significant aspect of treasure hunt; Heinrich Schliemann's excavations at Troy, and later at Mycenae, both turned up significant finds of golden artifacts. Early work in Egyptology also included a similar motive. Modern amateur treasure hunters use relatively inexpensive metal detectors to locate finds at terrestrial sites.
Underwater archaeologist and sometime treasure hunter Peter Throckmorton, in a paper he wrote in 1969 as part of a Historical Archaeology Forum on E. Lee Spence's salvage of a Civil War blockade runner, addressing the question of whether treasure hunting and archaeology are in conflict, stated: The foregoing discussion may seem like an attack on Mr. Spence. I do not mean this to be so. A whole new branch of archaeology, that of Mycenaean studies, was founded by Heinrich Schliemann, who also had the courage to remember his dreams ··· It is right to dream, and it would be the worst kind of mistake on the part of the state to discourage the big dreams of men like Mr. Spence, and to let a project requiring that sort of enterprise fall into the hands of what Mr. Spence's friend terms "some bloody historical society" which might lay the dead hand of unimaginative and stereotyped thinking on Mr. Spence's courage and ability. In 1972, Spence and Throckmorton, along with three other men, were awarded the degree of Doctor of Marine Histories by the College of Marine Arts on July 16, 1972, becoming first people in the world to be awarded a doctorate for work in marine archaeology.
More recently, most serious treasure hunters have started working underwater, where modern technology allows access to wrecks containing valuables, which were previously inaccessible. Starting with the diving suit, and moving on through Scuba and later to ROVs, each new generation of technology has made more wrecks accessible. Many of these wrecks have resulted in the treasure salvage of many fascinating artifacts from Spanish treasure fleets as well as many others.
Treasure hunting is condemned by a growing number of nations, and UNESCO issued a chart for the protection of the underwater cultural heritage in 2001: the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. This convention is a legal instrument helping states parties to improve the protection of their underwater cultural heritage. In 2013 the National Geographic Channel set off a firestorm of controversy with its reality show "Diggers." Professional archaeologists from the Society for Historical Archaeology, the largest scholarly group concerned with the archaeology of the modern world (A.D. 1400–present), roundly criticized the network for promoting the theft of cultural materials on public and private land.
Notable treasure hunters
- Bayerle, Capt. Martin located the shipwreck of RMS Republic in 1981.
- Chatterton, John (discoverer of the Pirate Ship of Joseph Bannsister Golden Fleece)
- Fisher, Mel (discoverer of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha)
- Fismer, Carl (underwater explorer, author)
- Graham, Cork (war correspondent, author)
- Haskins, Goin Evans "Jack," Jr. (underwater treasure hunter, researcher)
- Hatcher, Mike (discoverer of the "Nanking Cargo")
- Marx, Robert F. (underwater archaeologist, author)
- Masters, Phillip (led the hunt for and discovery of the Queen Anne's Revenge)
- Mattera, John (author and discoverer of the Pirate Ship of Joseph Bannsister Golden Fleece)
- Ponce de León, Juan (searched the new world for gold and the Fountain of Youth)
- Spence, Dr. E. Lee (pioneer underwater archaeologist, discoverer of the Hunley, SS Ozama, SS Georgiana. etc.)
- Weller, Robert "Frogfoot" (underwater explorer, historian, author)
Notable treasure hunting companies
- Columbus-America Discovery Group located and salvaged treasure from 1857 shipwreck of the SS Central America, using research by Dr. E. Lee Spence
- Odyssey Marine Exploration located and salvaged treasure from 1865 shipwreck of the SS Republic, using research by Dr. E. Lee Spence
- Shipwrecks, Inc. chartered in 1967 by Dr. E. Lee Spence, received 1st salvage license issued in South Carolina, for work on CSS Georgiana
- Intersal, Inc., while working under permit from the state of North Carolina, discovered the pirate Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, on November 21, 1996.
- Treasure Salvors, Inc., founded by Mel Fisher, located the Nuestra Señora de Atocha wreck and its mother lode of silver, gold and emeralds, in July 1985.
- Armchair treasure hunt
- Buried treasure
- The Golden Owl
- List of missing treasure
- Lost mines
- Marine salvage and treasure hunting (marine)
- Metal detector
- Oak Island
- Bruce, Sarah (5 November 2009). "On first time out with his metal detector, amateur treasure hunter finds £1m hoard of ancient golden jewellery". Daily Mail. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- "Salvage Versus Archaeology" by Peter Throckmorton, The Historical Archaeology Forum, 1969, Volume 4, Part 1, Part 2, p. 133
- Letter to E. Lee Spence from Kenneth Friedman, Executive Secretary, Sea Research Society, published in Sea Research Society Papers, 1972, Spence, Volume VI, p. 159
- Macguire, Eoghan (14 March 2012). "Why scouring sea for sunken treasures is big business". CNN. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- Berfield, Susan (7 June 2012). "Odyssey and the Lost Spanish Treasure". Bloomberg. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- "Protection | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". Unesco.org. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
- "National Geographic’s Diggers: is it better?". Society for Historical Archaeology. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- "QAR Discovered". Intersal, Inc. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- Mathewson III, R. Duncan. "Treasure Of The Atocha". atochastory.com. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- Robert E. Burgess, Sunken Treasure (Dodd, Mead; New York; 1988)
- Cork Graham, The Bamboo Chest; 2004
- Dr. E. Lee Spence, Treasures of the Confederate Coast: the "Real Rhett Butler" & Other Revelations (Narwhal Press, Charleston/Miami, 1995)
- Two firms seek ship, Carolina Coast Online
- Treasure hunter in race to uncover ship of riches, Google
- Philip Masters, True Amateur of History, Dies at 70, New York Times
- Shipwrecks and Treasure: the Spanish Treasure Fleet of 1750
- Treasure hunter that found Blackbeard's pirate ship sues state for $8.2 million, Fayetteville Observer
- Lawmakers enter legal battle over Blackbeard's ship, News & Observer