Some of the world's most priceless artifacts have been lost in war, buried and then forgotten, or simply misplaced without explanation. Many have been missing so long they have transformed from treasure to legend to rumor. Some have made it to the black market. Some have been stowed away in private collections. Some are believed to have been destroyed completely.
10.The Wright Brothers' Patent
The National Archives store some of history's most prized and rarest documents. Security is tight in the most important anthropological storehouses in the world, yet this hasn't stopped thieves from making off with some of its priceless pieces.
The patent papers that describe in detail Wilbur and Orville Wright's concept for a flying machine were lifted by an unknown crook without anyone noticing. Not until 2003 did anyone discover that it was missing, and since then, no one has been able to apprehend the culprit. Thefts at the Archives have become so common that an armed task force has been assigned to track down the missing pieces. The photos taken by astronauts during the Moon landing have been recovered, as have the audio tapes from the Hindenburg crash. But until someone tries to auction off hand-drawn airplane sketches from the early 1900s, we may never know where the patent papers took off to.
Stolen national treasures is not a purely US problem. According to the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan, 109 items marked as national treasures or important artifacts have gone missing from their collection. The pieces were being kept by private owners, which makes it impossible for the agency to keep track of their whereabouts.
Of the listed items, 52 swords, 17 sculptures, and 10 paintings cannot be located. The report says that either they were stolen, the owners had moved, or no one had kept track of the items after an owner died. In the missing collection is a 13th-century tanto sword signed "Kunimitsu." The owner died, and the agency was not notified when the item became a very highly valued inheritance. As with so many pieces of its kind, the agency believes the owners are not aware of the policies in place to manage its location. They plan to start visiting the remaining owners on a regular basis to keep tabs on their whereabouts.
8.City Of Paititi
Many legends surrounds the lost city of Paititi. It is said to be the location where the ancient Incas, desperate to hide their treasure from marauding Europeans, stored all of their gold. Due to its location and relative obscurity, the city gradually became synonymous with the legendary El Dorado. The two eventually became one mythical location where one lucky explorer could find endless riches.
Explorers have been searching the jungle of Peru, mesmerized by the potential of the lost treasure. There are many settlements in the region that are remote, where explorers have found clues that they believe will lead them to their prize. Whether Paititi is simply another version of El Dorado or a real city in its own right—or if either of the two are real at all—remains to be seen.
The Patiala Necklace was an item of rare beauty, designed by the house of Cartier in 1928. This gift to the Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh had five rows of platinum chains adorned with 2,930 diamonds. It was encrusted with Burmese rubies among other jewels. The centerpiece was the seventh-largest diamond in the world, the famed DeBeers Diamond, a 234.6-carat yellow diamond, roughly the size of a golf ball. The necklace was the prize piece until it disappeared in 1948. The last person known to wear it was his son Maharaja Yadavindra Singh.
The necklace itself was recovered by a Cartier representative in London over 50 years later, but it was missing its most impressive jewels. Among them were the Burmese rubies and the DeBeers diamond. Cartier restored the necklace as best they could, using cubic zirconium and other less expensive gems. The original, which is believed to have been dismantled and sold by the Maharaja's family members, would be worth $20–30 million today.
6.The Mahogany Ship
When a ship sinks miles off the coast with virtually no way for searchers to reach the bottom of the ocean, it can take decades or even centuries to find the wreck, if it's found at all. The Mahogany Ship, however, is a complete different story. It isn't miles out to sea, it's not at the bottom of the ocean, and it's not between a set of iffy coordinates that take precise measurements to calculate. It is, in fact, in the harbor, beneath the sand dunes in southwest Victoria, Australia.
The legendary ship was made of dark wood, speculated to be mahogany (but probably a different material altogether). It's said to have sunk as part of a secret Portuguese mission to explore Australia in 1522. The wreck was allegedly spotted almost 350 years later, in 1847, before people lost track of it altogether. All the details are conjecture based on accounts by whalers and locals over 150 years ago. Though no one has managed to prove its existence, no one can disprove it, so the mystery endures to this day. Believers in the tale say that Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour, supposedly the first European ship to reach Australia, was not the first ship of its kind to make landfall on the remote island nation.