TREASURES  of  Lost  Races  continued

Of Cities and Chariots

It has often been said that the most endearing and perhaps the most valuable qualities that separate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom are our sense of humor and our imagination—though not necessarily in that order.

Although man's grasp of humor is sometimes questionable, man's capacity for dreaming the grand dream has certainly been proved beyond doubt by the great advenrturers of times past. Let's face it: it really does not require any humor at all. To start searching for treasure in faraway places demands a vivid imagination; and when we look back at the men who explored the New World—both north and south—we find that they had this one quality in great abundance.

Adventurers they were, and as adventurers many of them died. For some of them their dream was realized; others lost their heads in the pursuit.   

One such man was Sir Walter Raleigh, the English soldier, seaman, courtier, author, and explorer who was the first to settle colonists in Virginia and to open Guiana to English enterprise. He was the brilliant favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.

Partly because of his work, men still dream of recapturing the wealth and treasure that he wanting in a far-off land called Eldorado—the Land of Gold.

Let's' take a look at his "diary" written after his exploration of Guiana, the area which today makes up Venezuela, Guyana and Dutch Surinam. These are his recollections, taken from Discoverie of Guiana (1596):

"The Empyre of Guiana is directly east from Peru towards the sea and lieth under the Equinoctial line, and it hath more abundance of Golde than any part of Peru, and as many or more great Cities than ever Peru had when it florished most; it is governed by the same lawes, and the Empereur and people observe the same religion, and the same forme and pollicies in government as was used in Peru, not differing in any part; and as I have beene assured by such of the Spanyardes as have seen Manoa, the emperiall Citie of Guinea, which the Spanyardes call el Dorado, that for the greatness, for the richness, and for the excellent seate, it farre exceedeth any of the world, at least of so much of the world as is knowen to the Spanish nation: it is founded upon a lake of salt water of 200 leagues long like unto mare caspiu. And if we compare it to that of Peru, and but reade the report of Francisco Lopez and others, it will seeme more than credible, and because we may judge of the one by the other, I thought good to insert part of the 120 chapter of Lopez in his generall historie of the Indies, wherein he describeth the court and magnificence of Guyanacapa, ancestor of the Empereur of Guiana. . . . All the vessels of his home, table, and kitchin were of gold and silver, and the meanest of silver and copper for strength and hardness of the mettal. He had in his wardroppe hollow statues of golde which seemed giants, and the figures in proportion and bignes of all the beastes, birdes, trees and hearbes, that the earth bringeth forth; and of all the fishes that the sea or waters of his kingdome breedeth. Hee had also ropes, budgets, chestes and troughs of golde, and silver, heapes of billets of golde that seemed woode, marked out to burne."


A most fantastic land indeed, and undoubtedly worth conquering. The only problem, however, was its location; for although Sir Walter was endowed with the gift of writing, he certainly was at a loss to pinpoint the land where gold appeared to be a commonplace metal. Had he perhaps become a victim of his own imagination, or was there really such a fabulous country somewhere beyond the known boundaries of the South American jungle?

The gold fever that infected Pizarro's men when they came face to face with the Inca treasures held them in its grip until their death, for whenever their immediate desire for possession of a certain treasure trove had been fulfilled, they were sure that there was always more to be found beyond the next jungle or beyond the next city. In the beginning the Indians innocently believed that the Spaniards might possess a magic way to transform gold into food, something that for them had real value. But then they began to realize that, for some strange reason, these white-skinned people wanted gold for gold's sake alone—and they learned to take advantage of this fact. Knowing that the-mail-clad Spaniards were no match for the steaming jungle, they teased them on, telling them that there was much more gold to be had—a little more to the north, or perhaps to the south; and if it wasn't there, then it would be across the next mountain range . . . and the Spaniards fell for it, time and time again. Inch by inch they cut their way into the dense jungle, scaled steep cliffs, and crossed seemingly impassable rivers, falling prey to hostile Indians and treacherous snakes and jungle fever . . . but the survivors always pushed onward toward the next mountain range and the next steaming jungle, leaving the bloating corpses of their compadres behind to rot away in the choking foliage of the unfriendly forest.

And while the conquistadores searched for the promised gold and their followers fell prey to the jungle in great numbers, the stories began to grow, as stories do when passed from one person to the next.

What had been a vague rumor of gold "somewhere behind the jungle" began to take on quite spectacular proportions when the sole survivor of one of the jungle expeditions stumbled back into camp with tales of having been rescued and cared for by the Incas in a secret City of Gold. Now even the skeptics began to believe. That the survivor had no proof for his story and had somehow not been able to bring back any of the gold presents his benefactors had given him did not matter at all. He had found the City of Gold! It existed!

Suddenly the gold fever, which had slowly abated in the face of the continual failure of the many expeditions, began to rage again. Again eager adventurers left the relative security of the cities and ventured out, this time cutting their way through the dense undergrowth of the jungle with only one aim: to find the lost City of Gold. But, as before, slow death, jungle fever, Indians and snakes took their toll, and the City of Gold remained a mystery.

It was not until 1535 that the first real break came. Sebastian de Belacazar, founder of Quito, capital of Ecuador, in a conversation with an Indian, heard of the king of a tribe in a far-distant region who sprinkled his body with gold dust once a year before going into a sacred mountain lake for a ceremonial cleansing. Reverently referring to the king as El Dorado—the Golden Man—the Indian was able to give only vague directions, but he did mention a mountain lake by the name of Guatavita.

A year later the search for the legendary Golden Man began in all earnest with an expeditionary force of nine hundred men led by Gonzalo Jiminez de Queseda; but by the time they finally reached a mountain lake which they judged to be Guatavita, malaria, swamp fever, snakes, and hostile natives had diminished the force to no more than two hundred men, most of whom were sick. Their discovery turned out to be a great disappointment, for aside from the deep blackness of the water, there was nothing about the lake or its vicinity to fit the description given by the Indian. The few deserted huts that stood on the water's edge hardly substantiated the romantic tales of torch-lit ceremonial processions to the accompaniment of clanging cymbals and native flutes in honor of the Golden King. There were no traces of the gold with which the king reportedly dusted himself before going into the sacred lake for a ceremonial cleansing to which he gave himself as a "sacrifice" for the sins of his people. If there had ever been any gold at all, it surely was not there now. Again the search for El Dorado had hit a dead end. Could it be possible that not only the City of Gold but also the Man of Gold were nothing but the end result of a chain of rumors that had finally crystallized themselves into two specific targets? But rumors die hard, especially when they deal with the promise of immeasurable riches— and this rumor was now transmuted into a sketch and actually placed on a map! Without any solid foundation whatsoever, the cartographer Jodocus Hondius included a drawing of a lake; of considerable size on his map entitled "New Map of the Country of Guiana Rich in Gold." He called the lake Dorado or Laguna Parima and placed an imperial city named Manoa on its shores. Now various other charts began to pinpoint Dorado and Manoa. Sure, the locations were not always the same, and sometimes the name was changed slightly—one of the maps referred to the lake as the Golden Sea—but they were there. Eventually, of course, the mapmakers were obliged to omit the imperial city of Manoa and Dorado Lake from their newer maps because their location could never be established with any degree of accuracy. Spanish soldiers had taken the rumors about the lake and Manoa to different areas of South America and had launched searches for the fabled places in both western and eastern parts of the continent, greatly complicating verification of the site.

Yet even though the lake supposedly discovered by de Queseda dimmed in the minds of the adventurers, the legend of the Golden King remained very much alive, thanks to the description of him given by Juan de Castellanos, a solder in the Spanish Indies who wrote of him in 1601:

"This is the king who went without garments in a boat upon a pool anointed all over with the essence of terebin-thine over which a quantity of powdered gold had been cast in such a way as to cover him from head to foot and which made him shine like a sun .... In the evening he bathed in the waters of the lake where all the gold with which he had been covered dissolved away."

It was the romance and the challenge of finding the land of the king who "shone like the sun" that kept both the lake and El Dorado alive until they were finally fused into one location, Eldorado, the Land of Gold. By the beginning of the 1800s, small, poorly financed expeditions were forcing their way into the wilderness of South America in search of the renowned riches. But it was as if the fate of all seekers had been predestined, for these men died in their attempts, as had all those who had gone before them, and Eldorado remained as elusive as ever.

However, the fact that many of the Indians of South America were still using gold to forge their everyday eating utensils prompted small groups to form syndicates with the sole aim of draining Lake Guatavita. The idea was not so farfetched as it might seem. It had been tried in 1580 by Don Antonia Sepulveda, who, using Indian workers, cut a hole in the wall of the lake allowing much of the water to escape. At that time a number of gold objects and an egg-size emerald were reported to have been recovered from the lake bottom, but complications with the wall and problems with the Indian laborers forced the abandonment of the project. The more "modern" expeditions did not fare much better. One of them succeeded in draining sufficient water to expose a portion of the lake's bottom—but little else.

Disgusted, discouraged and broke, most of the interested parties retreated, giving their pride the time and distance to heal; and by the middle of the twentieth century, Eldorado had become little more than a myth. The King of Gold, the man who washed himself ceremoniously in the sacred water of Lake Guatavita, was accepted as nothing more than a figment of the imagination of an Indian who was overeager to please a gold-hungry Spaniard.

End of the story? No, not quite. Tradition tells us that whenever the Golden King went down into the sacred lake to wash off the gold with which he had been covered, the people would participate in the ceremony by throwing gold trinkets into the water as an additional sacrifice to the gods, and that this practice continued for at least 150 years. A quick calculation reveals that if 1,000 worshipers had each thrown at least three gold ornaments into the lake once a year for 150 years, the lake bottom must contain at least 450,000 gold objects. If Lake Guatavita's bottom shows nothing but mud—no gold—then perhaps the fabled lake has not yet been found, and a further exploration of the area as well as a further examination of the bottoms of other qualifying lakes with metal detectors might be called for.

Was there really a Golden King? Was there really a Man of Gold, as the Indian reported? It would have been a valid question before 1969, but in that year the cynics and unbelievers received a serious blow. Two farmers, exploring a cave near Bogota, Colombia, discovered a beautifully handcrafted model of a raft made entirely of gold. What really ties it in with the age-old search for El Dorado or Eldorado, however, are the golden figures on the craft. For positioned with their backs to an enthroned Golden King are eight oarsmen accompanying their sover-

[In 1969 two farm workers exploring a cave near Bogota, Colombia, discovered this small but solid gold model of the raft of El Dorado. The Man of Gold sits on his throne amidst the oarsmen, whose backs are all turned toward him. No doubt El Dorado was taken on a similar raft to the middle of the Sacred Lake.]

eign on what may well be his annual ceremonial voyage to the middle of the lake, there to sacrifice his golden body to the gods!

Considering the price of gold, all planning for new expeditions with the aim of locating the real Sacred Lake and its thousands of gold artifacts is being done on a "need to know" basis, and is thus far limited to the boardrooms of banks and offices of South American financial tycoons.

With the finding of the golden raft, even the cynics are now beginning to show a more than casual interest in launching a truly scientific expedition using all the latest technology. "There are several lakes which may qualify to be the one, and we may end up checking every one of them with underwater metal-detection equipment," a spokesman for one interested group reported not so long ago. "To find the Land of Gold is out of the question, since that term came into being as a misinterpretation of El Dorado, the Man of Gold. But the lake is real; of that we have no doubt. The discovery of El Dorado's golden raft has convinced us."

Today's treasure hunters are not like the adventurous characters of the past. Now they're businessmen who look upon a possible treasure site as an investment or an expedition as a tax write-off—and for them the search for the sacred lake is indeed a worthwhile financial venture. If the tradition proves true and if our calculation of 450,000 is a realistic estimate of the number of gold objects that have been deposited in the lake, then the value of the lake treasure may well be in the neighborhood of $225 million. Perhaps the Land of Gold is there after all!


In Pursuit of Pharaoh's Army

The entire world is really a treasure hunter's paradise. I became strongly aware of this a number of years ago when I became involved in a strange yet fascinating search for an entire lost army.

It was after I had talked my way through Israeli customs and had grabbed my bags that I first noticed the wildly waving Ron Wyatt, standing tall amidst a crowd of bearded Hasidic Jews outside the terminal building at Ben Gurion Airport on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Israel was old familiar territory—I had left many footprints there. In fact, I had gotten to know all of Palestine as if it were my own backyard during the many military and political newspaper assignments I had fulfilled there. Yet I had a different feeling about this trip. This was to be one without deadlines, without assassination plots, without definite time limits or curfews, and without the usual mad dashes to embassies, or to censorship or telegraph offices. This was going to be a trip simply to enjoy.

Ron, an amateur archaeologist and my fellow explorer in Israel, had visited my home on White Oak Mountain a few months earlier. "I have developed a new theory," he said, dropping his massive frame into the only chair in my office that could hold his weight—and survive. "I think I know the route the Israelites took through the Sinai desert after they left Egypt in or around 1425 B.C. and the spot where they finally crossed the Red Sea, pursued by the Egyptian army . . . ."

"But the Egyptians . . . " I began.

Ron interrupted me quickly.

"You mean they drowned? They surely did!" he admitted readily. "But that's exactly why I am so interested in that spot. An entire army drowned there, and since much of their gear as well as their war chariots were made of iron, bronze and gold, some of it must be on the bottom of the Red Sea where they crossed, and buried on the beaches on both sides. I want to go look for it. Want to join me and find the place?"

As a journalist with archaeology for a hobby, I could think of nothing I'd rather do, and we soon arrived at a cohesive plan of action and decided on a target date. When the time finally arrived later on that year, Ron and his two sons and daughter flew ahead and I followed via a quick stop in western Europe to pick up some additional camera equipment.

Greeting Ron in the ovenlike heat of the Middle Eastern noonday sun, I handed him one of my bags and we ran across the parking lot and climbed into a rented van. It was not until later on that day in a hotel in Eilat that we had a chance to sit down quietly to compare notes and examine both our strategy and our theory. The scheme indeed had possibilities.

What we were interested in finding was evidence of one of the most pivotal events in ancient history, for if the Egyptians had been able to force the Hebrews back to Egypt, the history of the Middle East, and in fact the history of the civilized world, would have turned out quite differently.

The basic story of the Hebrews escape from bondage in Egypt has been told time and time again; it has been the subject of many motion pictures, theatrical productions, and books, both fictional and factual. After 430 years of Egyptian captivity, the Hebrews, under Moses' leadership, finally rebelled and under the guidance of Jehovah asked the Pharaoh for permission to leave. The biblical book of Exodus, chapters 3 through 12, faithfully records their agonizing struggle for freedom, while Numbers 1:46 gives us the staggering number of people who followed Moses into the wilderness, away from the relative safety of Egypt, on the way to the Promised Land. In the nations of old—and even today in many countries in the Middle East—women were not included in any estimate of the number of people participating in a particular event or living in a specific area. The Hebrews were no different when they recorded the number of escapees, and the book of Numbers lists 603,550 men. Add to this the women and children, and a total of two million would not appear to be excessive.

But these people were all slaves, and when the word reached Pharaoh Amenhotep II that his Hebrew slaves had actually left the kingdom never to return, he vowed revenge. Comments the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus:

"But the Egyptians soon repented that the Hebrews were gone; and the king also was mightily concerned that this had been procured by the magic arts of Moses: so they resolved to go after them. Accordingly they took their weapons, and other warlike furniture, and pursued after them, in order to bring them back . . . and they thought they could easily overcome them, as they had no armour, and would be weary with their journey: so they made haste in their pursuit, and asked of everyone they met which way they were gone. And indeed that land was difficult to travel over, not only by armies by by single persons.

"... Now when the Egyptians had overtaken the Hebrews, they prepared to fight them, and by their multitude they drove them into a narrow place, for the number that pursued after them was SIX HUNDRED CHARIOTS, WITH FIFTY THOUSAND HORSEMEN, AND TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND FOOTMEN, ALL ARMED. They also seized on the passages by which they imagined the Hebrews might fly, shutting them up between inaccessible precipices and the sea: for there was a ridge of mountains that terminated at the sea which were impassable by reason of their roughness, and obstructed their flight. Wherefore they pressed upon the Hebrews with their army, where the mountains were closed with the sea; which army they placed at the chops of the mountains, so they might deprive them of any passage into the plain."

[Seventeenth-century etching depicting the Red Sea closing in

on the Pharaoh and his army during his pursuit of the Hebrews

after their departure from Egypt.]

After recalling Moses' prayer for help, Josephus continued,

" . . . he [Moses] smote the sea with his rod, which parted asunder at the stroke, and receiving those waters unto itself, left the ground dry, as a road and a place of flight for the Hebrews.

" . . . he went first of all into it, and bid the Hebrews to follow him along the divine road, and to rejoice at the danger their enemies that followed them were in."

And turning his attention to the Egyptian army, Josephus records:

"... the Egyptians supposed first that they were distracted, and were going rashly upon manifest destruction. But when they saw that they were going a great way without any harm, and that no obstacle or difficulty fell in their journey, they made haste to pursue them, hoping that the sea would be calm for them also. They put their horse foremost and went down themselves into the sea.

"Now the Hebrews, while these were putting on their armour, and therein spending their time, were before hand with them, and escaped them, and got first over to the land on the other side without any hurt.

"... but the Egyptians were not aware that they went into a road made for the Hebrews, and not for others ... as soon, therefore, as ever the whole Egyptian army was within it, the sea flowed to its own place, and came down with a torrent raised by storms and wind, and encompassed the Egyptians. Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning with flashes of fire. Thunderbolts were also darted upon them .... And thus did all these men perish, so that there was not one man left to be a messenger of this calamity to the rest of the Egyptians."

It was the greatest single disaster that ever befell a nation, for in one blow the Pharaoh—the Egyptian king and commander-in-chief—and the priests who had accompanied the army and its entire elite fighting force had been totally destroyed without the enemy's having suffered a single casualty. Roughly 251,000 men and more than 50,000 horses died that one night on a path through the Red Sea that was probably no wider than a few hundred yards and no more than twelve miles long! 

Looking back on the morning after the mass drowning, Josephus writes rather matter-of-factly:

"On the next day Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of the wind resisting it: so when he had ordered the Hebrews to arm themselves with them, he led them to Mount Sinai, in order to offer sacrifices to God."

Historians are not in total agreement about the date of the Hebrews exodus from Egypt, but it is generally accepted that it probably happened at the end of the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, who ruled Egypt from 1450 to 1425 B.C. That the Egyptians did not mention this national tragedy in their records is no surprise, for the ancients seldom commemorated their defeats in stone inscriptions or painted hieroglyphics.

The theory on which Ron Wyatt was basing his exploratory trip into the Middle East was founded on two very obvious points made by Flavius Josephus and recorded in the Bible. Both mention that the Hebrew children went south from Egypt, through the desert, ending at the shore of the Red Sea in an area where "the mountains were closed with the sea." That the Red Sea at that time extended—in name at least—as far as Eilat at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba can be seen in I Kings 9:26, where it states that "King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edona."

Wyatt reasoned therefore that the Israelites had crossed the Sinai from west to east and had finally reached an area on the eastern coast (Gulf of Aqaba) where a mountain range met the sea. According to the record, the Egyptians had taken over the mountain peaks near the area to prevent the Hebrews from escaping. It also mentions that after they had crossed the Red Sea, Moses took them to "Mt. Sinai in order to offer sacrifices to God."

A careful examination of the eastern shore of the Sinai peninsula allows for only one place where two million people and their flocks can be gathered. It is the wide expanse of beach near Nuweba, the south end of which is closed off by steep mountains! Nearby is a wide and wild

[The area outlined in black (note arrow is the only part of the western coast of the Sinai peninsula where two million people could have set up camp. It is interesting that the Red Sea is shallowest at this very point.)]

mountain gorge known as the Wadi Watir, an ancient dried-out riverbed that forms a natural roadway into the Sinai desert. What's more, the traditional Mt. Sinai is deep within the Sinai desert, while both the Bible and Josephus indicate that Moses took the Hebrews to Mt. Sinai after they crossed the Red Sea into what is now known as Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, not far from the opposite shore is a mountain known as Jebal El Lawz, a steep, forbidding peak. Is it perhaps possible that this is the Mt. Sinai that Moses speaks of?

There are many different theories regarding the possible location of the real Mt. Sinai, and Ron Wyatt's location wasn't all that farfetched. He held that the Israelites, after leaving Egypt, went down the western side of the Sinai along the Gulf of Suez and crossed the Sinai from west to east through its most rugged mountainous section by traveling over the dried-out riverbeds that run into each other. Their route, according to him, could well have gone via the Wadi Feiran, connecting with the Wadi El Akhdar, which in turn runs into the Wadi Salaqa, becomes the Wadi Zaranek, and eventually meets the Gulf of Aqaba via the well-known Wadi Watir. The Wadi Watir is the only wadi that ends at a wide beach-like expanse whose southernmost end is cut off by steep mountains. An

[Beginning of the Wadi Watir, moving into the Sinai mountains from the beach-like expanse at the Dead Sea. At this point the wadi is smooth and can be traveled quite easily.]

escaping horde of people arriving at the Red Sea via the Wadi Watir had only two choices: to be annihilated on the beach by the pursuing armies that could enclose it from the north, while it was hemmed in by mountains on the west and south; or to go forward into the water. There simply could have been no other.

Early the next morning we left Aqaba and headed south along the sandy coastline into the direction of Neviot, a camping and diving center, one of the choicest vacation spots for Israelis since the 1967 war, which had left the Sinai in Israeli hands. After checking into the availability of diving equipment, we moved on southward toward Nuweba, the most likely spot for the Red Sea crossing.

By now it was unbearably hot, and while the others made ready for the dive I took a good look at the surrounding area. There was no doubt that the expanse of beach between the Wadi Watir and Nuweba was big enough to accommodate two million overnight campers, together with their carts and animals. They might not have had an abundance of space in which to move around, but then I doubt that they would have wanted to move about very much anyway, for a three-or-four-day trek through the rugged wadis isn't exactly like walking on a well-paved road. Also, their fear of the pursuing Egyptian army would have made them stick close together—and close to Moses, who had promised to lead them to safety.

Leaving the others to try out their equipment in the water, Ron and I moved on toward the mountains that cut off the beach on its southern end. Though not totally blocked, the narrow strip of rocky sand that remained at the foot of the mountains would not have been wide enough to support the flight of two million slaves trying to escape an avenging army. The rocks bore a striking resemblance to the ones described by Josephus as having halted any further movement of the Hebrew people.

I remember wondering, as I looked at the vast body of water, whether it might have been just as quiet when Moses struck the water with his staff. From our vantage point, the hazy mountains of the coast of Saudi Arabia could easily be seen ten or twelve miles across the rippling sea. Could this really be the place where 251,000 Egyptians had met their doom 3,400 years ago? Was this the area where an angry Pharaoh and his priests led one of the best equipped armies of their time into a battle from which there was no return? Not even for a courier?

Two hours later I stood quietly at the water's edge while Ron and his son Danny adjusted their oxygen tanks for their first dives into the Red Sea. It was early afternoon, and the wind had retired behind the Sinai mountains. The only ripples to disturb the surface of the water were the ever-widening circles that betrayed the spots where the divers had disappeared, and a trail of rising air bubbles traced their slow progress along the rocky bottom.

Ron was the first to break the surface. He grabbed the ropes that hung down from the yellow rubber boat I had rowed to the area of investigation—about two hundred feet from the beach. "It's quite clean on the bottom," he breathed excitedly, after taking off his mask and securing himself with the ropes. "We've moved slowly, and the uneven bottom shows a great number of uneven shapes that have completely been covered with coral. There's one that has the round shape of a wagon wheel with a hub in the middle—all crusted over—and right close to it is a big half circular piece of something that could well be the front armor section of a chariot." He reached into the boat for his underwater camera gear and went back down.

In the boat, we followed Ron's bursting bubbles, first moving in the direction of the rocks, then ever so slowly toward the beach. When I pulled the raft ashore and Ron had emerged from the water, we discussed what he had seen. "There was a greenish mess moving in while I was still down there," Ron explained as he peeled off his wet suit. "Probably algae of some sort. Anyway, by the time I got the camera and went back down, it was as if I were swimming in the middle of a greenish layer of soup. Nothing was distinguishable—I couldn't even get a good reading on the light meter ..."

The next day we hired a glass-bottomed boat at the Neviot diving center and motored out toward the target area. The sea was quite choppy; and despite the blazing sun, the ocean breeze chilled us to the bone. Our eyes and our concentration were constantly focused on the two-by-five-foot section of plexiglass in the bottom of the boat that was supposed to give us a clear view of the Red Sea's rugged bottom; but long before we reached our target area, greenish murk moved in, hindering our view. After we had thrown out the anchor on the previous day's site, the divers went down once more, this time with cameras at the ready. But conditions were even worse than they had been the day before. The algae seemed to extend for miles. It was obvious that it would be days before the water would be sufficiently clear to search the bottom again.

Back at the diving center we reevaluated our strategy. In order not to lose valuable time, we decided to check out the wadi connection between western and eastern Sinai; and after the usual haggling, we entrusted our lives to the hands of Allah and his servant Ibrahim, a dirty-white-robed Bedouin. Ibrahim owned an old jeep with a coughing engine but a set of reasonably good tires that just might make it. A mixture of Arabic, English, gestures, greenbacks, and a map of the Sinai produced not only smiles but also a general agreement as to the route we would take in our effort to duplicate at least a part of the trajectory of the Hebrew people—only this time in reverse.

When we left the main road the next morning and moved into the Wadi Watir, it was like entering a moon landscape. The middle and southern part of the Sinai are rugged beyond compare; the reddish-gray peaks that characterize the area appear harsh, cruel, and uninhabitable. They are of bewildering height, towering with awesome grandeur above a lone traveler attempting to find his way through the mountains.

With great skill—undoubtedly the result of much practice on this type of terrain—Ibrahim guided the bouncing jeep across the rock-hued riverbed of the wadi on the way to the Wadi Zeranek. Our eyes kept moving from one rock to another as we worried about possible avalanches or rockslides. As soon as we turned the first bend in the wadi, we began to feel utterly lost. Every mountain looked exactly like the one we had just passed, and an indefinably uneasy feeling came over us as we penetrated deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Only occasionally was the monotony of the ride interrupted—by the sight of a lone ibex silhouetted against a high cliff, or a vulture circling overhead, waiting patiently; or by the nervous coughing of the jeep's engine.

And so we continued, hour after hour, until suddenly Ibrahim decided to stop. He had shouted a few hasty words at a couple of Bedouin shepherds we'd passed a few minutes back, and as soon as we turned the next bend he pulled the key out of the dashboard, threw up his hands, and started a tirade in Arabic which, even though we didn't understand all the words, indicated clearly enough that he'd had it and wanted to go back to Neviot. We still had enough gas to get to the next Israeli-manned oasis and more than sufficient water and could therefore see no reason to cancel our plans at this point.

But Ibrahim had a different idea. From his viewpoint, he was in friendly territory. This was the area of his tribe. He was home,  and we didn't count; we were simply strangers with wallets full of cash and expensive camera gear and camping equipment. Our entry into the Sinai had not been recorded by anyone. No one could prove that we had ever been there. Only the Bedouins at the diving center knew, and they were his friends and wouldn't talk.

For the better part of an hour we argued in a variety of languages and gestures, but nothing worked. The ignition key remained tightly clutched in his hands as he kept reiterating that he was going back to Neviot! It was then that I began to notice his eyes darting back and forth to the mountainside where the Arab goatherds had appeared earlier. Now I also noticed the long shiny knife that had been carefully hidden in the folds of his white robe. Were we being set up for something? There certainly were enough rocks to conceal two bodies, and among the three of them we could quickly be disposed of.

Ron and I acted at the same time. Before Ibrahim could react, Ron had jumped into the jeep and reached for the lug wrench, while I grabbed the gasoline can and a book of matches, and we both turned on Ibrahim. Ron held the wrench over his head while I uncorked the gas.

"We'll go back to Neviot," Ron shouted at the frightened Arab, "but you will take us!" and dragging the shaking Arab to the front seat, he forced him to start the aging vehicle and turn it around. Ibrahim never had a chance to use his knife or call for help, for with the lug wrench held but inches over his head and the opened can of gasoline and the matches right next to him, he really didn't have much choice. Suddenly trouble was looking in his direction, and in the face of our insistent prodding and constant threats he moved on.

But the closer we got to the beginning of the Wadi Watir, the more resistant he became. He very obviously did not want to leave his tribal territory. We were just making the last gradual bend in the wadi when we heard the muted roar of a distant engine. When the curve straightened, there, perhaps five hundred yards from us, was a roving Israel armored truck, a half-track, filled with heavily armed soldiers. Hurriedly I stood up and waved at them, signaling them to stop and wait. For a moment it seemed as if Ibrahim might make a run for it, but the weight of the lug wrench on his skull changed his mind. I grabbed the wheel and turned the jeep in the direction of the patrol.

A minute later we came to a halt in front of the truck, and the soldiers surrounded our jeep, guns at the ready. It is at moments like these that I am most grateful for my military press credentials: they have the ability to create instant understanding. Ibrahim's protests were vastly outweighed by our anger and the armed might of the Israelis. The lutenant in charge spoke Hebrew, English and Arabic and had no trouble understanding what Ibrahim had had in mind for us. "You shouldn't have gone into the Sinai without being armed," he cautioned. "Next time come by and see us and we'll give you an M-16 to take along. Too many unarmed civilians have disappeared in the Sinai. After all, it is still enemy territory!"

Forced to refund the money we had paid him for our trip through the Sinai, Ibrahim spat a stream of curses in our direction. Even Mohammed would have been ashamed of this son of Ishmael.

Even though our trip had been cut short, we were convinced from what we had seen of the interior of the Sinai that travel by foot through the wadis is in fact possible. The wadi route certainly has merit when considering the escape route of the children of Israel. We also made two more dives into the Red Sea—but each time the green algae created a zero-visibility situation. Our diving season had come to an end.

Today (May 1982) the Sinai has changed hands again and is no longer Israel territory. The Neviot diving center is now Egyptian, and all the cards are back in the hands of Ibrahim. Perhaps someone else ought to make the next dive.

Ron Wyatt phoned me again recently. "Rene, I've got another project in mind. Again in the Middle East. Can I interest you in joining me?" Foolish question! A day later we were sitting again in the quiet of my office discussing his latest treasure-hunting plans. Without knowing anything at all about the finding of the copper scrolls or their treasure locations, he had started his own snooping around Old Jerusalem, hoping to find some of the temple treasure that was buried prior to the Babylonian and Roman raids on Jerusalem.

"I've been digging in Jerusalem for two seasons now— crawling underground like a mole—and have opened up an old cave that keeps branching out into smaller caves and a large room," he explained excitedly. "It is located not too far from the old Damascus Gate, and the site has been used by the owner as a garbage dump for many years. I've had a strange feeling about it ever since I saw it for the first time, for it's an ideal hiding place. So I looked up the owners and asked if I could have their permission to clean it out and do some digging in the cave. They readily agreed, and my two excavation seasons are now beginning to produce results."

Both Ron and I had been to the site several times in the past, and when he described it to me I was aghast. I had passed that very place just about every time I had been to Jerusalem, as do 200,000 other Christians every year when they visit the nearby Christian shrine; but the idea of actually digging there had never occurred to me.

Ron opened an envelope and placed a collection of photographs on the table. All were shots taken inside a narrow cave barely big enough for Wyatt's heavy frame. "I brought these with me to give you an idea what the cave is all about," he explained, "but I want you to look especially at this one!" The photograph he had singled out revealed a large cavelike area halfway filled with rocks. Since the camera had been tied to the end of a stick and shoved through a narrow opening in the cave, the photo was out of focus. The hard light of the electronic flash, however, had illuminated not only the roughly hewn ceiling and walls but also part of a large rectangular gold object that was still partially hidden by the rocks that covered the floor. Its reflection was brilliant yellow against the reddish-brown of the rock. Because copper and bronze do not survive the ages without turning green or brown, the bright yellow shine that reflected the light was undoubtedly indicative of a golden object.

"I have taken sensitive metal detectors into the cave," said Ron, "and I got soundings from different places. I have also probed into the mass of loose rock in one of the rooms, and there seems to be a chest underneath the rocks, about three by six feet in size. It will take quite a while to clear it out, but it will be worth it."

Wyatt's permission to excavate the cave is good for only one more season; after that, the cave has to be filled in again and will probably regain its former "prominence" as a garbage dump.

And the treasure—if it can be extracted from the cave? "I am not really after the money," commented Ron after we discussed mutual plans for the final phase of the operation. "I think I have stumbled on some of the lost temple treasure; and if that is true, then it may well be a major find of historical value. To me that's more important than just the financial rewards."