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The World’s Famous Missing Treasures

Throughout history, many astonishing cultural artifacts have been stolen or gone missing under unknown circumstances. Most often these relics disappear during unstable times of war, when they end up being taken away as loot of the invading armies. While some of the treasures are eventually recovered, a much larger number remain missing. Here are some of the greatest lost treasures of the world that may never be found.

The Romanian Treasure

The Romanian treasure is a collection of valuable objects and approximately 120 tons of gold reserves of the Romanian government, which was sent to Russia for safekeeping during the First World War. At the time, Bucharest, the capital of Romania, was occupied by the Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Romanian government was afraid of the Central Powers’ eventual victory, so they decided to send the treasure abroad. In 1916 they signed a deal with the Russian government, which stated that Russia would keep the treasure safe in the Kremlin until the end of the war.

The transportation of one part of the treasure took place at 3:00 AM on the night of December 15, 1916. A train with 21 carriages, filled with gold bars and gold coins began its journey to Russia, together with 200 members of Romanian military police who guarded the load. In today’s money, the gold in the train would be worth 5 billion dollars.

Several months later, in the summer of 1917, another train departed to Moscow, containing the rest of the valuables. These included jewels worn by the Romanian royal family, thousands of paintings, and items from Romanian monasteries, such as 14th century icons and old Romanian manuscripts. It’s difficult to determine the exact worth of these objects, but they are probably even more valuable than the gold on the first train.

The friendly relations between Romania and Russia ended in 1918, when the Romanian army entered Bessarabia, the region of Eastern Europe that belongs to modern-day Moldova, and which was at the time a part of Russia. As a result, Russia severed all diplomatic relations and confiscated the Romanian treasure.

Very little is known about the treasure after the First World War ended. The Romanian government tried to recover it in 1922, but with no success. During the Second World War, the Soviet government decided to transfer all its valuables from Moscow to other regions which were considered safer. It can be assumed that these valuables also included the Romanian treasure. The Soviets did return a part of the collection in 1935 and 1956, which included some paintings, ancient objects, but no gold.

Even the recent negotiations between two countries failed to address this issue. The Romanian–Russian treaty of 2003 did not mention the treasure, so there is little chance it will be seen again.

The Scepter of Dagobert

Scepters are always associated with mystery, and the one that was in possession of the French king Dagobert is no exception.  The scepter of Dagobert dates back to the 7th century and is considered by some the oldest part of the French Crown Jewels. The scepter was 56cm long and it was made of enameled gold.

Its name comes from king Dagobert I, who ruled France from 629 to 639. Dagobert was known for his good nature and wise decisions that brought prosperity to the French people. His scepter was kept in the treasury of the church of St. Denis, near Paris until 1795, when it disappeared and it was never seen again. Some historians assume that the disappearance of the scepter was linked to the events of the French Revolution and overthrowing of the monarchy, so the scepter may have been part of the loot. Still, its disappearance remains shrouded in mystery as there are no records on how the relic was stolen or who the thief was.

 The Three Brothers

The Three Brothers represents an intriguing piece of jewellery that was created in the late 14th century. It was worn by many prominent medieval figures, such as Duke John the Fearless of Burgundy, the German banker Jakob Fugger, Queen Elizabeth I, and King James I.

It was designed as a cloak clasp or a pendant and it remained unchanged for over more than 250 years. It had a large blue diamond in the center, surrounded by the three red spinels and four Oriental pearls. In the early 15th century it was the largest faceted diamond known in Europe. And since there’s little evidence for diamond cutting before 1400, its unusual cut remains a mystery.

This jewel was commissioned by Duke John the Fearless of Burgundy and later passed down to his son Phillip the Good. After Phillip’s death in 1467, it was inherited by his son Charles the Bold. The jewel was taken away from Charles by the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Burgundian Wars, and it was eventually sold to the magistrates of the city of Basel. They had the pendant assessed and they commissioned a watercolor miniature of it, which gave us the earliest visual representation of the Brothers.

After nearly a year of negotiations, the magistrates managed to sell the jewel to Jakob Fugger, a banker who’s known as one of the richest people in history. The pendant stayed with the Fuggers for 50 years, until Jakob’s nephew decided to sell it to King Henry VIII of England.

The pendant was among the favorites of Queen Elizabeth I and, subsequently, her successor James I, which can be seen in their portraits. After James’s death, the jewel came into possession of his son Charles and his wife Henrietta, a French princess.

In 1643, the trail of the jewel began to disappear. Once the First English Civil War between Charles and the Parliament broke out, the funds began to run low and in 1645, Henrietta sold an unnamed piece of jewellery, which description closely matched the one of the original Three Brothers.

The ultimate fate of the pendant is unknown. There is speculation that it was bought by the French chief minister Cardinal Mazarin, or that it was modified to create a jewel called the Three Sisters, which was offered to Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange. There are no confirmed sightings of the pendant since, but if it were to be found intact, its price would be incalculable.

Peking Man

Peking Man, or Homo erectus pekinensis, is the name for a group of fossils of Homo erectus, which date from roughly 750,000 years ago. They were discovered between 1929 and 1937 during excavations near Beijing, which was named Peking at the time.

The fossils comprised of 15 partial skulls, 11 lower jaws, many teeth, and some skeletal bones. There were also a large number of stone tools found at the excavation site. While Peking Man was largely considered to be an ancestor of the Chinese people, some scholars argued that he resembled modern Europeans.

The fossil specimens were stored at the Union Medical College in Peking until 1941. At the time, Beijing was under Japanese occupation, and, according to eyewitness accounts, just before the tensions between Japan and the Allied Forces erupted, the fossils were packed and shipped to northern China, near the Marine base at Camp Holocomb. From there they were meant to be sent by ship to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but the ship never made it to the Marine base.

However, some still suspect that the missing fossils are located at Camp Holocomb. Others believe that the ship was sunk, or that the bones were ground up and used for traditional Chinese medicine. Although we may never find out what happened to the original fossils, at least the descriptions of them are preserved.

Honjō Masamune

The Honjō Masamune is a famous samurai sword created by the master swordsmith Gorō Masamune between 1288 and 1328 AD. Gorō Masamune was Japan’s greatest swordsmith, and this particular piece he created is considered a priceless Japanese cultural artifact that became a national treasure.

The Honjō Masamune was named after a general Honjo Shigenaga, who lived during the 16th century and served the Uesugi clan in northern Japan. Shigenaga gained this sword after a battle he won in 1561. He defeated his enemy and claimed his sword as a prize. Shigenaga kept the sword for many years before selling it to the Toyotomi clan around 1595. After the fall of the Toyotomi clan, the sword came into possession of Japan’s new ruler, or shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The samurai sword remained in the Togukawa family for generations, and it was passed down from one shogun to the next. Even after the reign of Togukawa shogunate ended, the sword remained in their possession, retaining its status of a family treasure.

The last known owner of the Honjō Masamune was Tokugawa Iemasa, at the end of the Second World War. During that time, Japan was occupied by the United States, which imposed a ban on all production of Japanese swords except under police or government permit. Allegedly, Tokugawa Iemasa handed the Honjō Masamune and 14 other swords to a police station at Mejiro in 1945. Shortly after that, the Mejiro police gave these swords to a sergeant named Coldy Bimore, although there are no records that confirm that this person actually existed. The exact whereabouts of the famous samurai sword remain unknown.

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