Bahamas treasure found in a famous 17th century Spanish shipwreck

A treasure trove of jewels, lockets and historical artifacts dating back to the legendary 17th-century Maravillas shipwreck have been discovered in the Bahamas – and are now open to the public to see.

Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas (Our Lady of Miracles), a two-deck Spanish galleon, sank off Little Bahama Bank in the northern Bahamas on January 4, 1656 on a voyage from Cuba to Seville.

It had transported numerous treasures from both royal taxes and private collections.

The 891-ton ship went down after colliding with its flagship.

30 minutes later it hit a reef – and eventually sank.

The remains of the ship were scattered several miles across the ocean with no significant part of the ship remaining.

For more than 360 years, archaeologists and adventurers have tried to locate the debris lost in the rubble.

Allen exploration has been unearthing parts of the treasure since 2020.
Allen Exploration

And while much of the treasure – an estimated 3.5 million of eight pieces – was recovered between 1656 and the early 1990s, modern technology tools such as high-resolution magnetometers, improved GPS and metal detection have enabled Allen exploration to reach the surface riches beyond imagination .

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Allen Exploration founder Carl Allen said that he and his team began recovering valuable artifacts near Walker’s Cay in July 2020.

High-tech tools and the Bahamian government’s official approval to search the area known as the wreck hotspot in northern Bahamas have led to “rather startling” discoveries, the entrepreneur said.

“We recovered thousands of artifacts,” he said.

“Guns, anchors, emeralds and amethysts… We have about 3,000 silver coins and 25 gold coins,” he said.

Man holding gold coin.
Allen exploration used high tech tools to locate and pull the riches from the water.
Allen Exploration

The water in the area only goes up to 50 feet deep, while the sand can bury treasure up to 20 feet deep, he revealed.

But that didn’t stop Allen from proving his doubters wrong and discovering treasures that took his breath away.

“When I pulled up the first valuable item, I lost my breath,” he said. “I couldn’t breathe.”

“I’ve thought about it my whole life.”

The intriguing finds also include Spanish olive jars, Chinese porcelain and iron rigging, according to an AllenX press release.

The team also discovered a silver sword hilt that belonged to soldier Don Martin de Aranda y Gusmán; The item helped teams identify these treasures as belonging to the sunken Maravillas.

Four pendants worn by members of the Order of Saint Santiago, a religious group of knights involved in Spanish maritime trade, were also found.

The discovery of the Maravillas reflects an “amazing leap” in technology.
Allen Exploration

AllenX considered the jewels of the Order of Santiago to be the previous “star” finds.

A golden pendant with the cross of St. James was designed in the shape of a scallop shell.

It is enhanced by what appears to be an Indian bezoar stone – a famous European stone known for its healing properties.

Another gold pendant bears the same cross overlaid on a large, oval Colombian emerald.

Three gold chains were found, including an 887-gram gold filigree chain made up of 80 circular links and decorated with four-lobed rosette motifs, most likely made in the Philippines, the group said.

AllenX pointed out that no exact replicas of the chain exist in museum collections from other excavations or from Spanish portraiture.

Allen Exploration archaeologist Jim Sinclair told Fox News Digital that these artifacts show how people lived in the colonial era and in the New World.

A 40-year-old archaeologist and original discoverer of iconic wrecks like the Titanic, Sinclair said a salvage like that of the Maravillas reflects an “amazing leap” in technology.

The archaeologist also thought artifact analysis was a “really good development” in terms of recognizing human behavior and history.

Although the value of these artifacts most likely totals millions of dollars, the items are priceless, said Bill Springer, spokesman for Allen Exploration.

None of the results of Allen Exploration will be auctioned or offered for sale.

Divers in search of treasure.
The finds are exhibited in a museum.
Allen Exploration

Instead, the finds will become part of an exhibit at Allen Exploration’s Bahamas Maritime Museum, located in the Port Lucaya Marketplace in Freeport.

The museum is scheduled to open on Saturday August 6, 2022.

It will also feature exhibits related to maritime history in the Bahamas, as well as the transatlantic slave trade and the Lucaya people.

Only 45 survivors

The Maravillas exhibition also tells the story of the ship’s sinking.

Of the nearly 650 passengers aboard the ship, only 45 survived.

No human remains have been found.

The shipwreck was a “huge blow,” Allen explained, as Spain was struggling financially at the time and the boat was stuffed with valuables.

It was one of the largest treasure ships to ever leave India – which is why Allen said he expects more artifacts to be discovered.

The “mother vein” has yet to be discovered, he pointed out; and if so, he said the loot would be “extremely valuable.”

“The manifest that’s usually on those old ships a lot – it was only about half of what was on the ship because there was so much contraband,” he said.

“So that’s the exciting part.”

In addition to opening the museum, Allen is furthering his passion for discovery and education by developing underwater archeology programs for children in the Bahamas.

“The big problem is [the debris] won’t stay there forever,” he said.

“And it’s a playground of shipwreck.”

“So I created a way for other people to do that — and I welcome it.” Bahamas treasure found in a famous 17th century Spanish shipwreck


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