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Are treasure maps fact or fiction?

Legends are often born from reality; stories told over and over again, exaggerated and transformed along the way. Facts fade with time and a fantastical tale remains. But a relic of truth can always be found if you look hard enough. The same can be said for treasure maps.

If TV and movies were to be believed, we could take our HERE mobile apps, click a few points and be easily on our way to “X marks the spot” on a treasure map.


But don’t quit your job just yet. While there are a few real treasure maps whose spoils have yet to be discovered, language and mysterious code have been obstacles for decades.

Copper Scroll

The Copper Scroll is considered one of the Dead Sea Scrolls even though it was not discovered with the other parchment scrolls nor by the Bedouins who found them. This scroll is made of copper and tin and was exposed by an archeologist in a different cave.

What’s also different about this scroll is that it’s not a literary work, but is believed to be a list or map of 60 locations where gold, silver and untold treasures are buried in Israel. The language on the scroll dates before the Bible, so many words cannot be deciphered and many of the places may no longer exist.

Scholars disagree as to whether any of this treasure was unearthed in ancient times or even what makes up the total of the treasure. They do agree, however, that its value would be mindboggling and, when found, would be considered one of the greatest archeological finds of all time.


image credit: "Part of Qumran Copper Scroll (2)" by na - Qumran Copper Scroll. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Lue Treasure Map

Randy Bradford, a member of the Ancient History Research Foundation, currently seems to be the foremost expert on the Lue Treasure map, which is difficult to find information on.

A series of hieroglyphs, it looks nothing like a map, but is said to be created by an unknown Nazi loyalist in the United States who buried 100 tons of gold bullion on his property just before World War II. He died and took his secrets with him.


The map made it into the hands of the FBI who supposedly could not break the code. American treasure hunter Karl Von Mueller made the map famous in the 1960s, but its meaning and riches remain a mystery. It’s been said that this gold hoarding was the catalyst of the U.S. Gold Reserve Act.

Treasure Island

So long as there were ships trading, there were pirates. Yes, they pillaged and stole. No, they didn’t actually bury their treasure. Perhaps the legend derived from the fact that many of the ships pirated, sunk along with their treasures — ergo “buried” at sea.

The buried treasure bit also rumors from fiction. The real pirates came first but literature glamorized these real criminals by creating imaginary antagonists, with one of the earliest and most well known being Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s, Treasure Island.

Patch wearing, one-legged Silver uses a treasure map to try and prevent mutiny.


image credit: wikipedia commons"Treasure-island-map" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Modern day treasure hunters still chase and find these spoils, and there are plenty of historical lost treasures to look for in the world, but no map is going to tell you how to find them.

See more special kinds of maps here.

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