Five Fascinating Lost Treasures of the World

Treasure is a wonderful word. It conjures up images of jewels and gold and coin of the realm. It adorns classic novels like Treasure Island and classic movies like Treasure of the Sierra Madre. And if we add a second word to create the evocative phrase “treasure hunt,” then heroes, heroines, and the Walter Mitty’s among us just might throw ourselves into an adventure.

And with reason. Our atavistic selves are drawn to hunts; our higher functioning brains like challenges, especially if a secret is involved. In fact, for some folks, the payoff to finding lost treasure can be greater than the riches involved – besides the loot, they win the psychological prize of doing something no one else has ever done.

I love this stuff. I write spy thrillers, which means I also write about geopolitics, culture, romance, secrets, and, whenever I can, missing treasures. Here are five of my favorites lost treasures:


The Amber Room

This recreation from drawings and photos took 24 years to complete and was dedicated in Russia near St Petersburg in 2003.

It was said that when the afternoon light shone through the tall windows of the Amber Room, the walls shimmered and glowed as if alive. The reason? A fortune in amber mosaics and carved amber figurines blanketed every square inch, while gold-encrusted mirrors reflected the lush beauty back upon itself. Created in the early 1700s in Prussia, the Amber Room grew politically important in 1716 when Prussian King Frederick William I gave it to Peter the Great of Russia to memorialize their alliance against Sweden. Some 200 years later, the room became prize World War II plunder, stolen by the Germans and shipped off to Königsberg Castle. It was at the war’s end that it disappeared. Some believe the room was destroyed when the Allies bombed the castle, while others think it was dismantled and hidden in a salt mine or cave, where appropriate humidity and temperature would preserve it. Today the Amber Room remains one of the world’s most significant and stunning vanished treasures.


The Treasure on the Mary Dear

Lima’s Rimac River, dated 1820, engraved by T. Sutherland for London mapmaker Ackermann.

In 1820, Lima, Peru, was a rich city boasting treasures valued at some $60 million, including a life-size gold statue of Mary holding baby Jesus. But the city was near revolt. The Spanish viceroy hired William Thompson, captain of the merchantman Mary Dear, to transport the city's wealth to Mexico for safekeeping. Instead, once at sea, Thompson ordered the viceroy’s guards killed and thrown overboard. Sailing on to the Cocos Islands, the crew anchored and buried the treasure. Not long afterward, the Mary Dear was captured, and the crew was convicted of piracy. All but Thompson and his first mate were hanged. To save their lives, the two promised to reveal where the treasure was buried and led their captors back to the island. But once in the jungle, they escaped. Since then, more than 300 expeditions have tried to locate the lost treasure of the Mary Dear, but to no avail.


Ivan the Terrible’s Library of Gold

Ivan the Terrible showing off his library, as depicted in the 1823 painting by Alexander Litovchenko

Known for his horrific temper and paranoia, Ivan the Terrible of Russia had another side: He built the eternal St. Basil’s Cathedral, introduced the printing press, and kept artists, craftsmen, and poets on staff. He allegedly also inherited from his grandmother Sophia some 800 illuminated manuscripts covered with gold and gems. Sophia was an heir to the last Byzantine emperor, and her priceless collection was all that remained of the legendary Constantinople Library, saved before the Turks routed the city. Over the years, Ivan invited luminaries from Europe to view it, and they returned home to spread word of its magnificence. But when Ivan died in 1584, the library disappeared. Although there has been debate whether the library ever existed, historians and notables have searched for it for centuries. Among those were Peter the Great, Napoleon, Vatican emissaries, and even Vladimir Putin.


The Secret Grave of Genghis Khan

The First Khagan of the Mongol Empire, Supreme King of Kings, as depicted in a 14th century Yuan-era album.

When the fabled warrior died in 1227, his body was returned to Mongolia, probably close to his birthplace near the Onon River. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anyone who saw the body being transported, and when the tomb was finished, the slaves who built it were murdered, too. Nothing was left to mark the grave, even though Genghis Khan had founded the Mongol Empire and conquered most of Eurasia. For centuries he’s been eulogized in myth, poetry, and song, and the hunt for his tomb has long attracted those fascinated by his remarkable life and accomplishments. One was Maury Kravitz, the famous Wall Street commodities trader, who financed and led four excursions into Mongolia. Still, the Great Khan’s final resting place is likely never to be found. If legend is to be believed, the soldiers who had murdered everyone who might know about the tomb also killed one another, the last man taking his own life.


Saddam Hussein’s Missing Billions

A statue of Saddam Hussein during the fall of Baghdad.

Few people know that Saddam Hussein’s first job in politics was as an assassin for Iraq’s Baath Party. He was only 20 years old but soon was known as a shaqawah, a man to be feared. By the time he was 42 years old, he was president. He quickly nationalized the banks and oil companies and began skimming profits. His wealth grew more from bribes and kickbacks on contracts to build superhighways, hospitals, schools, hotels, shopping malls, and office complexes. At the time of his execution, his fortune was estimated to be between $40 and $70 billion, but the United States and its allies have been able to recover only a few billion. Sources believe the money is hidden in dummy corporations in Switzerland, Japan, and Germany, and as cash and diamonds in numbered bank accounts in Europe and the Middle East. The search for Saddam’s vanished billions is considered by some to be the greatest treasure hunt since the post–World War II pursuit of Nazi gold.


And there you have my choices of favorite lost treasures. Through them we see peace and war, adventurers and rulers, the meaning of relentless power, times of wealth, and times of deprivation. The treasures may be missing, but their stories remain with us, and all are rich in culture and history.

This sweepstakes has ended.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Gayle Lynds's The Assassins where six master killers team together to steal a fortune from the middle of a war zone!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Assassins Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at http://five-fascinating-lost-treasures-of-the-world-gayle-lynds-the-assassins beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) June 18, 2015. Sweepstakes ends 11:59 a.m. ET June 29, 2015. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Gayle Lynds is the bestselling, award-winning author of ten international espionage novels, including The Book of Spies, The Last Spymaster, andMasquerade.  Library Journal calls her “the reigning queen of espionage fiction.”  She is a member of the Association for Former Intelligence Officers and cofounder (with David Morrell) of ITW (International Thriller Writers).



  1. Tatiana deCarillion

    I didn’t know about all of the six treasures you noted above. It is just amazing what people with too much money conceive to do with it. That Amber Room sounds just amazing!

  2. Sally Schmidt

    Interesting history, didn’t know most of this.

  3. DebP

    I love these stories. I find them more fascinating than fiction.

  4. Mildred Deas

    IMO, this book needs a link in this thread to where an interested reader can purchase it. There is no link to “The Assassins” in this thread as of the time that I posted this comment

  5. Clare 2e

    @madeas Gayle Lynds’ new thriller, The Assassins, will be released on June 30th. Until then, you can pre-order it from your favorite bookseller, and very good luck!

  6. Fred Gillis

    Count me in.

  7. Karen Barnett

    Love the history! Book sounds fascinating.

  8. Francis Cardosi

    Enjoyed the story of the “Lost Treasures”.

  9. Barbara Fish

    I hope I win these!

  10. Carol Kubala

    After reading The Amber Room by Steve Berry (fiction) I had to visit Russia to see the restored room. It was magnificent. I later read The Amber Room: The Fate of the World’s Greates Lost Treasure by Cathy Scott-Clark (non-fiction) which was very interesting. Like all missing treasure of this nature they are many theories as to its final location.

    I did not know about all of these. You always have interesting articles.
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  11. Diane Stedner

    Sounds like an intresting read.

  12. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    Assassins do not need this book but I do! Yes!

  13. David Steele

    Oak island! The search continues for the worlds greatest treasure.

  14. Janice

    Very interesting. I would like to know more about these treasures.

  15. Jeffrey Malis

    Fascinating topic… Thank you for the article and the opportunity!

  16. Linda Knowles

    Cool article, I had never heard of the Amber Room or Ivan the Terrible’s Library of Gold before.

  17. Irene Menge

    The search for lost treasures is always fascinating. I wonder how many lost treasures exist that we don’t even know about.

  18. Lynn Marler

    Hope I win; thanks for the chance

  19. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  20. L L

    interesting stories

  21. daniel thornton

    The book looks interesting. I want to read it.

  22. lynette thompson

    Well this is different, but looks good to read this summer

  23. keith james

    Thanks again for all the info.

  24. Chris Noe

    This should be a fascinating read. Who doesn’t like a missing treasure.

  25. Richard Hicks

    I love reading stuff like this!

  26. Shannon Baas

    I would like this.

  27. Sandra Slack

    I would like to win this one. Thank You.

  28. Benita Glickman

    The stories are indeed fascinating. Thanks for the opportunity.

  29. Steven Wilber

    sounds interesting. Count me in

  30. Daniel Morrell

    looks like a fun one!

  31. Diane Pollock

    Very interesting post

  32. Cindi

    Hi, I actually knew nothing about any of these
    treasure troves! I have read; recently, that they may have found The City of Atlantis, underwater, somewhere.
    Many thanks for the chance to win your book!
    Cindi ????

  33. Faye Gates

    I hope I win! This is a great giveaway. Thanks for the chance.

  34. Beth Mills

    Lost or buried treasure will always be fascinating–didn’t know about the Library of Gold

  35. Jeffrey Tretin

    Can’t wait to read it! Love the Amber Room.

  36. Caren Luckie

    Fascinating! Can’t wait to read the book.

  37. Rena

    Very interesting!

  38. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  39. Dave Cohn

    Fascinating. I had heard of some of these, but not all of them.

  40. L

    Who doesn’t love the idea of lost treasure, waiting to be found. Loved learning about these six, which I’d never heard of before. Your book sounds very interesting, as well!

  41. Crystal Blackburn

    I would love to win this book.

  42. Lori P

    You only have to have watched the news to see brazen example after brazen example of outrageous thefts in war zones or elsewhere. I’d have to figure out who the good guys are in “The Assassins” so I can root for them.

  43. sue roegge

    Very interesting.

  44. Janice Milliken

    Looking forward to reading “The Assaaains” especially ater reading a sample of Lynds work on the lost treasures.

  45. LabRat517

    I’m looking forward to reading this one. Love the premise. I had never heard of the lost grave of Genghis Khan. I love stories that combine history and fantasy.

  46. Tammy Brasic

    Wow! That was very interesting. I didn’t know about most of these treasures that are missing. I was especially interested in Saddam Hussein’s billions. I can’t believe how hard it is to find it now.

  47. Marie-Louise Molloy

    Sounds like a fascinating read, would love to have!

  48. alyce poalillo

    Love books based on history and facts and this sounds like a good read.

  49. susan beamon

    I love reading about lost treasures. It shows somethimes things about lost cultures. My treasures are books.

  50. Jackie Wisherd

    Enjoyed reading about these treasures. The book sounds interesting.

  51. Doward Wilson

    What is better than treasure hunts?

  52. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a fun one

  53. rob riffe

    sounds like a good read. thanks for the chance to win it and find out

  54. Cindy Hipolito

    Enjoyed the facts about the other bits of history listed above. Thank you for the giveaway of ‘The Assassins’ by Gayle Lynds.

  55. Lynn Jarrett

    All of these sound interesting. I look forward to reading them.

  56. Aaron Shapiro

    Thanks for this giveaway!

  57. Josh Atkins

    The Amber Room is one of my favorite lost treasures of history.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win Gayle’s book!

  58. Vicky Boackle

    looks great.

  59. Donna Jacoby

    This sounds fascinating. Thank you for the giveaway!

  60. Kathy Fannon

    Fascinating stuff. Now I know what to do for our summer vacation!

  61. Dawn K

    looks good

  62. Marjorie Manharth

    Have never read Gayle Lynds – but sure would like to.

  63. tiac35

    Seems like an interesting read. I hope I win.

  64. Melissa Keith

    I’ve been reading Gayle’s books for years and enjoy them immensely! They’re all gems. I like reading about treasure and ships. I’m feenin’ for BLACK SAILS. lol! Would love to win ASSASSINS. IT’S PROBABLY GOLDEN!

  65. Carl White

    [b]True story, I was in the running to be one of the six master killers but I just missed. They told me I was their 7th pick, gave me a nice lunch and wished me well in finding a fortune to steal before sending me on my way.[/b]

  66. JULES M.

    awesome! would love to win!

  67. Denise Sachs

    This would be great, thanks.


    Love the looks of this book!!

  69. Daniel Vice

    I would like this

  70. Karen Terry

    Sounds like the perfect read.

  71. Deborah Wellenstein

    I’d love to win this book-thank you!

  72. Leslie Bitner

    That sounds like a great beach read.


    My turn to win.

  74. Edd

    I would like to read the work of Gayle Lynds.

  75. Kim Keithline

    sounds great sign me up

  76. Tricha Leary

    love it

  77. kent w. smith

    Hooked on treasures ever since I read the Count of Monte Cristo! Please pick me. Thank you.

  78. Lisa Pecora

    I would love this!

  79. Linda Peters

    would be a great read, thanks

  80. nukstreasures

    This looks like a real interesting read. I reminds me of Ocean’s 11.

  81. Tim Moss

    Good deal, count me in!

  82. Lily

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  83. Linda Pence

    I love history, especially the things not widely known or discussed.

  84. Buddy Garrett

    The article was fascinating. It is unbelievable that the stories are true.

  85. ErinCook

    Sounds like an interesting read. Would love to read it

  86. Heather Cowley

    Ah, people and their material things! You can’t take it with you! lol

  87. Gordon Bingham

    Childhood freams…

  88. Jack Przybylski

    This is the kind of things that fascinate me

  89. Carrie Conley

    Sounds exciting…

  90. Kathleen Gereg

    Intrique, the stuff that entertains me!

  91. Saundra K. Warren

    Very interesting!

  92. Susan D

    It is the summer reading season. This Gayle Lynds book sounds like a good one to add to the beach bag of books to read….

  93. vicki wurgler

    thanks book sounds interesting

  94. Barrett Newsom

    I loved your novel about the amber room. Never heard of it before. All of these are incredible mysteries. Thanks for bringing them to light. This article should be the basis of some documentary or TV show. I’d love to see more pics. Thanks, Gayle!

  95. Andra Dalton

    Definitely need to add this to my books to read list!!! Can’t wait to dig into this one!!! Thanks for the opportunity to win & good luck to all those who enter!!!:)

  96. Kim Johnston

    I love a great story.

Comments are closed.