Treasure hunting has always been a tremendous hit, from kiddie games to extreme expeditions. But, no, this is not about Indiana Jones or lost mummies. Gold looms large here.

Gold is buried deep in the layers of the Earth and tossed out by volcanoes and earthquakes.

Geologists confirm that rocks as old as 4.5 billion years old have gold.

Panhandlers, take a new look.

1. Srivijaya, The Fabled Island of Gold

The Srivijaya Empire in modern-day Indonesia and a good bit of the Malay peninsula lasted about seven centuries- from the seventh to the twelfth.

Having control over the Malacca Straights, the Empire was a major trading center, especially with China and India.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
The Srivijaya Empire

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Trade then was not just merely an exchange of goods but included were political, religious, and cultural viewpoints. Thus Buddhist philosophy and Chinese politics could make inroads.

Their gold had the sandalwood flower and the Sanskrit inscription for “glory.” 

In the 13th century, an invasion by the Chola Empire from Southern India took control of the Malacca Straits, strangling the hold of the Srivijaya Empire.

It ultimately lost its influenc

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
Chola Empire

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Around the 14th century, it disappeared without a trace.

In the early 20th century, George Coedes, a French historian, stumbled on the name while reading ancient Chinese manuscripts and stone inscriptions. At that time, his information was from foreign travelers- a land of gold, volcanoes spewing smoke and fire, man-eating snakes, and giant parrots that could mimic any language.

Local fishermen on the Musi River started hauling in glitter in their nets only recently.

Investigating maritime archeologist Dr. Sean Kingsley dumbfound with the haul of jewels, pottery, tons of Chinese coins, Buddhist statues, some life-size gem-studded, called it an “Asian Atlantis.”

He opines that the kingdom sat on vast deposits of gold along the Musi and Batang Hari rivers. Add to this the wealth generated from commerce with India and China. So much so that rumor had it that the King tossed a gold brick out on awakening every morning.

So what was the reason for the total disappearance of this prosperous, rich floating kingdom? Explanations range from piracy to volcanic activity.

Sadly, many of these finds have spurred locals to loot antiques and sell them off. As a result, reconstructing the Empire and its wealth is impractical.

2. The Lost City Of El Dorado

Gold lust has driven men seeking fortunes from Alaska to Australia.

It spans all nationalities, races, and eras.

The legend of Eldorado has driven many bounty hunters to their death in the quest. In the 16th and 17th centuries, many believed that El Dorado existed somewhere in the New World.

The origins of El Dorado in South America, by all accounts, are from early Spanish conquistadors. 

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
Muesca Location

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An ancient native tribe, the Muesca existed high up in the Andes in what is now Columbia. When a new chieftain arose, an enormous ritual followed at Lake Guatavita. Versions vary, but some truth prevails considering the amount of gold Francis Pizarro and his merry men plundered, including an entire civilization.

Anyways, the new chief was coated in gold dust, and leapt into the lake following which a lot of gold and ornaments were thrown in to appease an underwater god.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
El Dorado- “The Shining One”

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This golden chief was called El Dorado, the gilded one.” by the Spaniards. But Europeans and Spaniards found vast amounts of gold among the natives in the northern frontier that convinced them that the interior was a great source of wealth.

El Dorado remains elusive, but Lake Guatavita is not. The Spanish drained the lake enough to see a lot of gold lining its edges, but it proved too deep to get to the bottom.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
Lake Guatavita

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Others also made forays. 

To discover El Dorado. The English courtier, Sir Walter Raleigh, financed two expeditions to Guiana to unravel the mystery. In 1617, he sent his so Matt Raleigh up the Orinocco as he was ill during his second expedition. Unfortunately, Mat met with his death at the hands of the Spaniards.

Raleigh returned to Egland and his sentence-beheading for disobeying the King’s mandate on not interfering with the affairs of Spain.

3. The Discovery Of Paititi

Many souls have surrendered their lives searching for Paititi, the lost city of gold purportedly hidden in the last undiscovered regions of the Amazon. Sir Artur Conan Dyle drew inspiration from this elusive city in his “The Lost World.”

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
The Grand Amazon

The documentation of the quest for this magical kingdom is vast. From archeologists, treasure hunters, and explorers, lore has ruled Paititi through tribal generations down the ages.

But a new find around 2016 in the Peruvian Amazon fired up fresh hopes that the lost kingdom was not lost, and a professional expedition is set forth later.

After the Spanish destruction of the Inca, it was not the end. Mention of a city in Inca traditions places its location east of the Andes somewhere near Cusco, the last refuge of the Incas. The Spanish conquistadors followed the trail into the Peruvian Amazon and subsequently pillaged Cosco. The recovery was slight, but the bulk remained hidden.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
Possible Location Of Paititi

The wreck of a Spanish galleon was found off the Colombian coast holding treasure worth billions of dollars looted from Peru.

History does not halt the quest.

Andre Lopez, a missionary, reported in the 1600s that such a city beyond wealth existed amid the Amazon. However, this information was, it is rumored suppressed by the Vatican.

At this time, illegal drug trafficking and oil mining in the area have been the cause of the extermination of amateur explorers.

The prominent legendary explorer Gregory Deyermenjian explains this mystery after much intense research.

His search for Paititi started after learning, after much research, that the Spanish Conquest did not fully exterminate the Incas. The remaining retreated to Vilcabamba, the redoubt of the Manco Inca.

The search for them led him beyond the Andes after visiting the site of Vilcabamba in 1981.

The Manco Inca were the remaining Incas who finally put up a resistance against the Spaniards after a punishing three-year rule—the ground for this confrontation-Espiritu Pampa in the dense forests northwest of Machu Picchu.

Chasing this lead, he learned of a site that lay hidden somewhere in the East where rainforest, and the Andes met- a land of ravines, hills, and isolated peaks covered in thick jungle and primarily impenetrable.

In 1984 he resumed his quest with the help of Cusqueno hunters and Quechua highland campesinos

The details of his endeavors are vast and best read up on:

His search was relentless— the discovery of several Incan cities and stone paths heading northwards of Cusco in 2012. However, braving tarantula swarms and perpetual rain was no easy feat. 

The Matsiguengas, an ancient Indian tribe, spoke of a mountain atop a stony city.

In 2012, satellite imagery revealed a square mountain where signs of human habitation including the remains of walls, terraces, and tracks is clearly visible.

Two lakes and a square lake that find mention in Spanish records of their invasion can be identified. Legend has it that when Cusco fell, the Incas filled them with riches.

Was this Paititi? 

The terrain proved impossible to navigate by foot.

In 2012, a French company named Atrium managed by satellite imagery to capture a cube-shaped mountain some 1000 meters in height flanked by lakes. Instead, the search zeroed in on a square mountain.

It was impossible to reach by land, strategically located, and easy to defend.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
Gregory Deyermenjian at Llamitas

Rock face carving by Indians (Photo by Fernando S. Gallegos)

The outcome is that the search for Paititi died a natural death. 

But Gregory Deyermenjian and his colleague Ignacio Mamani, Thierry Jamin, Herbert Cartagena, and many more were not interested in profit but in unearthing a truly world heritage spot.

Despite multiple explorations, finding Paititi has proved elusive till date.

4. Timbuktu- Africa’s Lost City of Gold

Timbuktu, the very word, conjures images of adventure and romance- and where the Earth ended. The old maps went blank.

Thomas L Friedman of the New York Times put it nicely. The World is indeed flat connected by magical Net cables and data. So why is it that the mustering of Russian troops along the border of Kyiv should cause tremors in stock markets globally?

That is not saying that the globe has many black holes that no man has set his foot in—so many places to discover and explore. 

Timbuktu, for the average person, does not exist. The “phrase from here to Timbuktu,” suggests a faraway destination and carries a negative implication.

To get to the chase- the legendary, nomadic Tuareg are the true founders of Timbuktu.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
Tuareg-Nomads Of The Sahara

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They are a matriarchal society.

Around 1100 CE, Tuareg herdsmen, the nomads of the Sahara founded Timbuktu. As legend goes, they dug a well at the spot and tasked an old woman by the name of Buktu to look after it in their absence. In the Tuareg language Tin ‘place’, so the place was called Tin’Buktu- place of Buktu.

The mid-thirteenth century saw the founding of the Mali Empire which flourished as it controlled the trade routes. Its importance was great because of its strategic location near the Niger river bend

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
The Mali Empire, c, 1337 CE

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Trading in salt and gold, it became fantastically rich. Rock salt from the Sahara was exchanged for gold. A 90 kg block of salt fetched nearly half a kilo of gold.

Turag originates from the Arabic word for paths, “tuareq.”

The Tuareg knew the Sahara like the back of their palms.

One king, Mansa Musa, put Timbuktu on the global radar. (Read about Mansa Musa in my post:

The city’s great wealth soon reached Europe titillating explorers to look for Timbuktu. The search for the source of the river Niger proved impossible and promoted the mystery of Timbuktu.

Anyone with adventure in their soul can reachTimbuktu. Hoever it is now a sad sight from the glorius days of Mansa Musa. So if you are searching for gold in Timbuktu, good luck.

5. Yamashita’s Gold

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
General Tomoyuki Yamashita

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Nicknamed “The Tiger of Malay,” he ended up at the end of the hangman’s rope on February 23rd, 1946.

The question remains unanswered- what happened to the plundered treasure?

General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the formidable Japanese soldier heading an army of 30,000 men, overcame odds to conquer Malay and Singapore. So it was a brutal massacre that Churchill pronounced as the worst military disaster in British history.

Yamashita was later posted to the Philippines in a rearguard move by the Japanese Government as the tide of WWII took a turn.

Yamashita realizing that holding fort in Manilla was an impossibility, retreated to the Sierra Madre mountains. So what is the story of Yashamita’s gold?

As the Japanese rampaged through Southeast Asia and China, they had amassed an immense stolen fortune in gold and treasure.

The head of the esteemed Kwantung Army, Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, decreed that all stolen wealth be hidden from the Allies closing in till after the War.

It is reported he ordered the construction of the so-called “ Golden Lilly” tunnels- dug into the mountains of the Philippines, a vast network to conceal the loot.

Yamashita was in charge of “Tunnel number 8.”  

After the deed, the tunnels were made to implode, killing all.

Only Yamashita and Takeda had the key to the locations.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
The Golden Lily Tunnels

Treasure hunters subsequently descended by hordes in Luzon to find the treasure. But it proved elusive.

This is where things get more exciting.

Sometime in the 1970s, Rogelio Roxas spent years digging in the mountainous regions of Baguio. He had hold of a map from a Japanese soldier in the !960s showing the location of one such tunnel. As a result, he managed to unearth a gold Buddha statue a ton in weight along with a lot of bullion.

5 Gold Cites That Thwarted All Attempts At Discovery Frenzy
Roger Roxas with The Golden Buddha

This is where things get weird.

Ferdinand Marcos got wind of the story and sent in troops to confiscate the treasure, and subsequently, Roxas was imprisoned as he refused to reveal any details of the tunnel.

After his release from jail, Roxas, in 1988, founded the “Golden Buddha Corporation” for exclusive rights to dig for treasure

Remarkably, a Hawaiin state court found Ferdinand and Esmelda Marcos guilty, ordering them to pay a sum of $22 billion in damages to Rogelio Roxas.

Sadly Roxas was not alive.

An unconfirmed rumor makes the rounds that the liberating American Army had unearthed and carried away all this treasure to fund the Cold War.


The lust for gold by Europeans have wiped out entire civilizations, led to colonization of peaceful nations, and unimaginable bloodshed.

A plethora of Hollywood movies such as Indiana Jones, Lara Croft and so on paint a romantic picture that is far from the truth.

A handful of explorers uninterested in lucre however have strived with the grander motive of serving historical truth.

I salute them.


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