10 amazing treasures from around the world (and beyond...)

Published on: 01 February 2021 Author: David Long

Ever wished you could be like Indiana Jones, hunting for long-lost artefacts and incredible pieces of history? Get ready to explore as Amazing Treasures author David Long shares his top ten treasures from around the world...

Image from the cover of Amazing Treasures by David LongImage from the cover of Amazing Treasures by David Long

Picking a top ten like this was always going to be hard, because in a way they are all favourites which is why I put them in the book. I tried to include amazing treasures of all sorts, more than a hundred of them from all round the world. That meant natural features like the Amazon rainforest as well as manmade objects; new ones and very, very old ones; tiny ones and great big ones. There are even a couple from outer space but, rest assured, also plenty of gold and jewels buried by pirates and the odd Viking and Chinese hoard. Together they tell the fascinating story about this amazing planet we inhabit.

The Mask of Agamemnon

The Mask of Agamemnon from Amazing TreasuresThe Mask of Agamemnon from Amazing Treasures

This heavy, solid gold mask was discovered 150 years ago by an archaeologist digging in Greece. It dates back more than 3,500 years ago and was found in a royal tomb although we still don’t know whose face is shown on the mask. I like the fact that he is still so mysterious, although it is to be hoped that one day historians will find out at last the name of this ancient, unknown king.

Arctic Sea Ice

There’s no land under the North Pole - just ice, billions and billion tonnes of it. We now know how important this beautiful but deadly landscape is and the likely, catastrophic, consequences if the ice carries on melting. Children learn about this sort of thing now, how the Arctic and Antarctic are two of nature’s real treasures, and they are beginning to understand the importance of looking after the planet rather than just exploiting it as we have been doing for so long.

Lascaux Cave Paintings

20,000 year-old Stone Age art is not only beautiful but teaches us so much about the lives of our ancestors. More than 2,000 beautifully coloured images were discovered by a group of French schoolboys when their dog (called Robot) disappeared into a dark cave. These depict ancient people hunting wild animals and include many strange symbols which we still don’t understand. The vibrant colours were made using burnt wood, mud from a nearby river and ground-up bones - but the effect is spectacular.

Lascaux cave paintings and Fabergé eggs from Amazing TreasuresLascaux cave paintings and Fabergé eggs from Amazing Treasures

Fabergé Eggs

Carl Fabergé made his name producing a series of sensational jewel-encrusted eggs for members of the Russian royal family. Happily today most of them are in museums but a few are owned by fabulously rich collectors, and three belong to the Queen Elizabeth II. Some of them contain thrilling little toys, including a working model railway made of solid gold, but above all they demonstrate the extraordinary skills of one of history’s most outstanding craftsmen.

Windsor Castle

The world’s oldest continuously inhabited castle, and reportedly the Queen’s favourite home, Windsor has been at the centre of royal life in England for almost a thousand years. Edward III was born in the castle, Henry VIII came here to hunt, play tennis and write songs, and today it forms a stunning backdrop to moments of pageantry and ceremonial. Most recently it was where Captain Tom Moore was knighted after his extraordinary fundraising walk in support of the NHS.

Mansa Musa's Treasure

In the 14th century Musa was the emperor or mansa of Mali in West Africa. He is believed to have been one of the richest men in history although most of his wealth (as much as $400 billion in modern terms) came from slavery and gold mining. On a pilgrimage to Mecca he gave a lot of it away and reportedly buried the rest beneath the desert sands. Centuries later it has still not been found but it continues to fascinate treasure-seekers in Africa and around the world.

Apollo 11 Command Module

Illustration of the Apollo 11 Command Module from Amazing Treasures

Illustration of the Apollo 11 Command Module from Amazing Treasures

I was eight when the first men walked on the Moon, since then I’ve met and shaken hands with two of the twelve who were lucky enough (and brave enough) to make that unique and incredible journey and to stand on the surface of another world. Today the tiny cramped capsule in which Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins made history looks every bit as old and as odd as any museum exhibit, but it says so much about human ingenuity and invention - and our continuing desire to explore and to understand - that it is impossible not to want to reach out and touch it.

Cheapside Hoard

In 1912 workmen accidentally stumbled upon a glittering hoard of gold and jewellery in the mud beneath some ruined buildings on one of London’s busiest streets. Around 500 dazzling jewels and gemstones from all over the world are thought to have been buried by a goldsmith to protect them during the Civil War (1642-1651). The priceless hoard is now recognised as the world’s greatest single collection of Elizabethan and Stuart-era jewellery and it has become one of the most popular exhibits at the Museum of London.

The Mary Rose

The pride of Henry VIII’s navy was a formidable battleship which saw action over several decades but then suddenly sank in 1545 with great loss of life. More than 400 years later around 60 million people watched on television as the wreck and its incredible contents were raised from the depths by a team of expert divers. Since then the bones of nearly 200 sailors and thousands upon thousands of personal, everyday objects have provided historians and visitors to the wreck’s new home with fascinating clues about life in the Tudor navy.

Birmingham Qu'ran

Muslims believe their holiest book, which we call the Koran, was given by Allah to the prophet Muhammad. A couple of pages are all that survive of the world’s oldest known copy. These were written in ink on sheep or goatskin nearly 1,400 years old which means they may have been written when Muhammad himself was still alive. Incredibly the pages lay undiscovered for nearly a century, hidden away in Birmingham University’s collection of thousands of important Middle Eastern manuscripts. The rest of the book has still to be found.

Win your very own copy of Amazing Treasures and Amazing Islands

Amazing Treasures by David Long, illustrated by MUTI, is out now. Follow David on Twitter.

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