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Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck


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Talk about a to find.

A treasure trove of jewellery, medallions and historical artifacts has been unearthed in the Bahamas dating back to the legendary 17th century Maravillas shipwreck – and the public is about to take a peek.

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

It carried many treasures from both royal tax and private property.

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The 891-ton ship sank after colliding with the flagship of its fleet.

It struck a reef 30 minutes later and eventually sank.

An illustration of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas, which sank in 1656.
(Allen Exploration)

The remains of the ship were scattered for several miles across the ocean, with no significant parts of the ship left behind.

For more than 360 years, archaeologists and adventurers have been trying to locate the lost debris in the wreckage.

And although much of the hoard – around 3.5 million out of eight pieces – was recovered between 1656 and the early 1990s, modern technology such as high-resolution magnetometers, improved GPS and detection of metals has allowed Allen Exploration to bring to the surface riches beyond imagination.

Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck

An explorer holds up a gold coin found in the Bahamas as an Allen exploration boat can be seen in the distance.
(Brendan Chavez/Allen Exploration)

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

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High-tech tools, along with official permission granted to them by the Bahamian government to search the northern region of the Bahamas – known to be a wreck hotspot – have made some “quite amazing” discoveries, said the entrepreneur.

“We recovered thousands of artifacts,” he said.

Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck

A fleet from Allen Exploration is pictured in Bahamian waters.
(Brendan Chavez/Allen Exploration)

“Cannons, anchors, emeralds and amethysts… We’re down to around 3,000 silver and 25 gold,” he said.

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

Still, that didn’t stop Allen from proving his skeptics wrong and uncovering treasures that took his breath away.

Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck

Allen Exploration founder, Carl Allen, accompanied by his wife, Gigi, holds an amethyst found at a shipwreck site in the Bahamas.
(Matthew Rissell/Allen Exploration)

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

“I’ve thought about that all my life.”

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

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

A gold pendant with the Santiago cross was designed in the form of a scallop shell.

Four pendants worn by members of the Sacred Order of Santiago, a religious group of knights active in the Spanish maritime trade, were also recovered.

AllenX considered the Order of Santiago jewelry the “star” finds so far.

A gold pendant with the Santiago cross was designed in the form 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.

Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck

A gold pendant appears to hold an Indian bezoar stone.
(Nathaniel Harrington/Allen Exploration)

Another gold pendant bears the same cross superimposed on a large ovular Colombian emerald.

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

A gold pendant with the Santiago cross was designed in the form of a scallop shell.

AllenX indicated that no exact replicas of the chain exist from other excavations in museum collections or as seen in Spanish portraiture.

Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck

This 887 gram gold filigree chain made up of 80 circular links and adorned with four-lobed rosette designs was most likely made in the Philippines.
(Nathaniel Harrington/Allen Exploration)

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

As a 40-year-old archaeologist and the original explorer of iconic shipwrecks such as the Titanic, Sinclair said a recovery like that of the Maravillas reflects an “incredible leap” in technology.

The archaeologist also considered the analysis of artifacts a “really good development” in terms of detecting human behavior and history.

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

None of Allen Exploration’s discoveries will be auctioned or sold.

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

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

It will unveil other exhibits on the maritime history of the Bahamas, as well as the transatlantic slave trade and the Lucayan people.

Only 45 survivors

The Maravillas exhibit also features the story of the ship’s disappearance.

Of the nearly 650 passengers who were on board the ship, only 45 are known to have survived.

No human remains were found.

Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck

Divers are shown digging for treasure buried at the bottom of the sea – the site of a shipwreck in the Bahamas.
(Chad Bagwell/Allen Exploration)

The sinking was a “huge blow”, Allen said, as Spain at the time was struggling financially and the boat was stuffed full of valuables.

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

The “mother lode” has not yet been discovered.

The “mother lode” remains to be discovered, he indicated; and when it does, he said the loot will be “extremely valuable”.

“The manifest usually on these old ships, often – it was only about half of what was on the ship because there was so much contraband,” he said.

“So that’s what’s exciting.”

Sunken jewelry, buried treasure unearthed in Bahamas from iconic 17th-century Spanish shipwreck

Divers explore a wreck site in the Bahamas.
(Brendan Chavez/Allen Exploration)

Along with launching the museum, Allen continues his passion for discovery and education by developing underwater archeology programs for children in the Bahamas.

“The big problem is [the debris] not going to stay there forever,” he said.

“And it’s a sinking playground.”

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“So I created a path for other people to do that – and I’m happy about that.”

Allen Exploration’s Bahamas Maritime Museum in Freeport, Grand Bahama opens August 6, 2022.

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