TREASURES  OF  LOST  RACES  -  Discovering  the  Riches  of  Ancient  Civilizations  and  the  Secret  History  of  the  Earth

by  Rene  Noorbergen (published  in  1982)


This is a book about treasure—have no doubt about that. In fact, it may even help you find some on your own! But it is primarily a book about the games Mother Earth has played with the treasures reluctantly entrusted to her throughout her thousands of years of existence. Needless to say, the researching and writing of Treasures of the Lost Races gave rise to special moments of agony and ecstasy; the inordinate pains and pleasures that are experienced when man is in touch with nature.

The earth has taken in the relics of past civilizations like a sponge, absorbing all and relinquishing little, even when pressured. In going through the annals and reports of archaeological history, in trying to wring the earth's secrets from her, I sometimes began to feel like a little boy, waiting with barely concealed excitement for what would eventually issue forth.

Little individual pieces don't mean all that much when extracted from the earth and examined separately; only when combined or placed within the right context does a strange and sometimes unfamiliar pattern emerge, slowly bringing to light new discoveries about the nations of old. As is true of all of us, I knew little bits about many big things; but not until the target was defined did I initiate a concentrated effort to search for the specific things that I felt would be representative of what the earth has been hiding from us all these many centuries.

Combing through the dry, unimaginative reports written by no-nonsense scientists and visiting those places where the spades of the "romantic science"—archaeology—have brought dead and forgotten societies back to life has put some sites of ancient civilizations into a new perspective. In fact, some of the more recent discoveries have practically "repainted" the map of the ancient world, and are beginning to reintroduce us to people who might otherwise have been forgotten. Not only were these people in some cases technologically superior to us, but many of them had the rare ability to find form for their intimate feelings about men and nature, producing artwork of unequaled beauty.

And now the search for their treasures is on.

Reports on the gold artifacts that have been retrieved from ancient tombs, along with stories about the caches of valuable coins that have been found in the most unexpected places, have sparked the imagination—and the greed—of a brand-new breed of gold diggers. This in turn has created a totally new market for the twentieth-century metal-detecting business. Millions of dollars are now being spent annually by archaeological adventurers, all with the hope that their discoveries will eventually justify their investment.

The skyrocketing price of gold in the early 1980s has been one of the contributing causes of this mad search for precious metals. Any time that gold—the ultimate standard of wealth—rises in value, people are bound to speculate. The upward move from $34.85 per ounce in 1970 to $850.00 in 1980 brought even more adventurers into the market. Investing in gold stock is a passive activity; to put even a relatively small amount into prospecting and metal-detection equipment, on the other hand, calls for active involvement and can provide fun for the entire family. And when the investor in turn hits "pay dirt" (literally speaking!), the rewards can be enormous.

(NOW  GOLD  IS  SKY  HIGH  IN  PRICE  -  Keith Hunt)

Gold has held a strange fascination for men ever since our early ancestors were attracted to its unique qualities. It cannot corrode, does not tarnish, is not affected by the passing of time, and will not lose density or any of its other physical properties when melted down.

We cannot even guess at the number or the size of the gold objects presumed to be still hidden under the surface of the earth, but the largest one ever recovered was the solid-gold coffin of King Tut-ankh-amon, which weighs 2,447 pounds. The largest gold nugget ever found was discovered in Victoria, Australia, by prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates in 1860. It weighed 150 pounds and measured 21 inches long and 10 inches across. Judged to be almost one hundred percent pure, it was sold for close to $50,000.


The big problem with finding gold is that huge nuggets or voluminous quantities in any form are rare. Yet some gold can be found, provided one wants it badly enough. Sea water, for example, is known to contain ten milligrams of gold for every ton of water; this means that no less that 2,835 tons of sea water would have to be filtered and purified to obtain one single ounce of gold. Dr. Fritz Haber, a German scientist concerned about how his country would pay her World War I debts, came upon the novel idea of filtering the gold from the water of the North Sea, but his plan failed miserably. Modern science has advanced so that it is now entirely possible to change other metals such as lead or platinum into gold by means of nuclear fission. The only problem is that the gold thus produced would cost more than its market value.

Nevertheless, since man's hunger for gold is insatiable, it may eventually become necessary to find a practical way to filter the sea. In the meantime, occasional discoveries of new land deposits keep today's prospectors' dreams, alive. The Brazilian gold rush which started in the 1980s is still attracting explorers by the hundreds to the steaming jungle, where in Serra Pelada, sixty miles from Maraba, millionaires are made daily. One prospector, Jose Maria da Silva, thirty-five, arrived there hungry in April of 1980 and was obliged to borrow money for food. Within fifteen days he was able to repay the loan out of the twenty-two pounds of gold he had discovered. Now, because of his steadily growing fortune, he is known as King of Serra Pelada. One plot he prospected netted him twelve million dollars in gold within three short months! On one day alone da Silva extracted seven hundred pounds of gold from the hot, steaming soil, earning for his day's work $4.75 million.

On the other side of the world, in Australia, a four-man prospecting expedition recently claimed to have found the legendary El Dorado of Australian folklore, Lasseter's Lost Reef, a vein of gold believed to be twelve miles long. It was first discovered in 1897 by Harold Lasseter, the son of an English miner. But even though he had finally by 1930 raised sufficient funds to return to the site and continue his work, hardships were so numerous that the expedition broke up, and Lasseter took two of the camels and went ahead alone. His body was found two years later by trackers combing the area. He had never revealed to anyone the exact location of his find.

The new discoverer of the reef, Nick Delaraine, claims that he came across a mound of gold quartz three or four feet below the ground. He asserted that it. went on for miles, but that his party were unable to take samples because of shotgun-armed natives and a white ranger who forced them off the territory. His attempts to secure a mining permit from the government for the area specified have failed thus far; there are those who claim that the Australian government has ulterior motives for the delaying tactics and really has no intention of issuing a permit at all.

But aside from the occasional gold strike and discoveries such as these, man's quest for gold has been limited to searching for buried treasure; changing base metals into gold—the alchemists' dream; or extracting gold from the oceans. But space-age technology is beginning to change those dreams, for with the introduction of rocketry, the siren song of gold is now drawing treasure hunters toward other planets; and, given man's preoccupation with the acquisition of wealth, chances that he will succeed in reaching the mineral deposits in outer space are good— very good.

The idea of gathering gold from the vastness of space is in itself nothing new. In the seventeenth century, alchemists had already discovered that the meteorites that bombarded the earth contained small quantities of precious metal; in fact, the value of meteorites in those years was determined not by their origin but rather by their content of such metals. Based on sample analysis, it has been estimated that a single iron asteroid 100, meters (328 feet) in diameter may contain as much as one billion dollars' worth of platinum, gold, osmium and other precious metals. Careful calculations performed by leading astronomers today indicate that there are about 200,000 of these asteroids orbiting the sun.

Listening to astronomers and engineers discuss the possibility of sending mining expeditions into space is like being back in the frontier days, when it was necessary to weigh the danger of venturing into unknown territory against the treasures waiting to be discovered. The most promising types of asteroids appear to be the Apollo and Amor variety, Apollos being those bodies whose orbits cross the earth's path, and Amors those asteroids that are much more elliptical and approach but do not cross the earth's orbit.

No one knows as yet how may of these Apollos and Amors are in our immediate vicinity, but the number of discovered asteroids is climbing year by year, thanks to Dr. Eleanor Helin of Mt. Palomar Observatory. Dr. Helin, with her eighteen-inch Schmidt wide-angle camera, continually photographs the starlit skies, turning up three or four new asteroids per year. Only forty-seven have been found to date, but conservative estimates place the total number passing close to the earth at somewhere between 800 and 2,400, while the total number of 100-meter objects suitable for mining is thought to be in the vicinity of 100,000. Granted, there are lots of "ifs" to this subject, but by the time the first asteroid expedition is ready to be launched, more targets will have been discovered and isolated. Even one asteroid cannot be depleted in one expedition, so with forty-seven already mapped and ready for exploration, the search for more asteroids is not an A-l priority.

A number of interested private groups have already laid much of the groundwork for asteroid mining. It has been reported that a contingent of NASA engineers involved in an organization known as the World Space Foundation have already given a $10,000 grant to Dr. Helin to fund her search for additional asteroids. Even the method of extracting their precious metals has already been worked out. Dr. Jack Arnold of the University of California has found that crushing chondrite meteorite stone between steel rollers pulverizes the highly magnetic iron fragments and allows them to be separated from the silicate debris. Gold and platinum should also come out during the process, since they have a chemical affinity for iron.

There is little doubt that space mining will be a highly profitable venture. Let's assume that the retrievable precious metals in the average 100-meter asteroid are worth a billion dollars. Subtract from this a few hundred million for the hardware and for the expedition's expenses, and the investment in both time and money would still seem to be well worth while.

In the meantime, we're earthbound; and the search for gold in space has really very little to do with the search for ancient treasure on this globe, even though some highly imaginative writers have already suggested that many of the discovered treasures are in all probability "gifts from the gods from outer space" to their earthbound cousins.

But in searching for the treasure of the ancients, we have to deal with reality, along with the legends, traditions and an occasional hunch. Combine these with the newest tools available to archaeology, and we have a promising future indeed.

Finding treasure in whatever form and from whatever tribe or race, and then attempting to track down its origin, brings with it an incomparable sense of excitement and exhilaration. It is a search for adventure that will never end.

In this world of limitations, that in itself is a major discovery.

Rene Noorbergen

Collegedale, Tennessee April 1982