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Divers create treasure map for an estimated $100m of riches from 1656 shipwreck

A businessman has helped identify parts of what is thought to be $100m worth of treasure hidden in the sands of the Bahamas from a shipwreck over 300 years ago.

Carl Allen, the former CEO of the Heritage Bag Company, which produced bin liners, has turned his attention to recovering expensive artifacts from the seabed that were lost after a Spanish treasure ship sank in 1656.

After years of exploration and investment in the project, Mr Allen’s organisation, AllenX, has helped to map out a trail of lost treasures and riches over two miles on the sea floor off the Bahamas.

For years, the waters just off the Bahamas have attracted many archaeologists and treasure hunters to see what they could find hidden in the sands from the ‘Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas’ ship.

In January 1656, the Maravillas sank in less than an hour when it collided with another ship in the water, taking down masses of riches, such as jewellery, silver bars and coins.

AllenX has been given the sole license to find the lost treasures (CBS Mornings)
AllenX has been given the sole license to find the lost treasures (CBS Mornings)

Much of the treasure was found throughout the years and was sold at auctions and put in private collections until 1999, when the Bahamian government banned searches to stop any more from exiting their territory, reports CBS.

However, marine archaeologist Jim Sinclair believes there is over $100 million in treasures and artifacts still sitting on the sea floor, claiming that the ship’s “main pile” was still not found, he told the outlet.

Luckily for Mr Allen, the moratorium on the exploration was lifted in 2019 for AllenX, who were given sole license to explore what remains in the 250 square feet of water.

So far, AllenX, with the help of a 183-foot research vessel, support boats, submarine and divers, has mapped out around 8,800 items of “potential cultural significance” along their two-mile treasure trail, according to the company’s new report.

They said they have found items such as “loose ballast stones, the occasional wooden plank, iron rigging, gun carriage concretions and two iron swivel guns to ceramics, silver pesos, silver bars, emeralds, amethysts and gold jewellery.”

While their divers have successfully recovered and pinpointed artifacts in many of their explorations, the work is more complex due to various factors.

The exploration has discovered around 8,800 artefacts which are thought to be culturally significant (CBS Mornings)
The exploration has discovered around 8,800 artefacts which are thought to be culturally significant (CBS Mornings)

Some discoveries in the past were buried under 1.5 meters of sand, and the movement of the wreckage over hundreds of years has dispersed the items, making them harder to find.

Mr Allen said to CBS that “mother nature” was his biggest obstacle in recovering and identifying the shipwreck objects.

Despite this, AllenX has recovered more than 10,000 artifacts from the Maravillas, but the company’s report states that the ship has not been “salvaged into oblivion” as “significant archaeological remains survive.”

For Mr Allen, creating the Maravillas treasure map was not for his personal financial gain, but he hoped to keep the load in the Bahamas as historical exhibits in the Maritime Museum his company built.