List of treasure hunters

A treasure hunter is a person who, as either a vocation or avocation, searches for sunken, buried, lost, or hidden treasure and other artifacts.


  • Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823, Italian). sometimes known as The Great Belzoni, was a prolific Italian explorer and pioneer archaeologist of Egyptian antiquities. He removed with great skill the colossal bust of Ramesses II, commonly called "the Young Memnon" later shipped to England. He expanded his investigations to the great temple of Edfu, visited Elephantine and Philae, cleared the great temple at Abu Simbel of sand (1817), made excavations at Karnak, and opened up the sepulchre of Seti I (still sometimes known as "Belzoni's Tomb"). He was the first to penetrate into the second pyramid of Giza, and the first European in modern times to visit the oasis of Bahariya. He also identified the ruins of Berenice on the Red Sea.[1]
  • Heinrich Schliemann (1822–1890, German). He argued for the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer and was an important excavator of Troy and of the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns. He is considered by many to have been the "father of historical archaeology."[2]
  • Mel Fisher (1922–1998, American). Best known for finding the wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha in 1985. The estimated $450 million cache recovered, known as the "Atocha Motherlode," included 40 tons of gold and silver and some 100,000 Spanish silver coins (pieces of eight), gold coins, Colombian emeralds, golden and silver artifacts, and 1000 silver bars.
  • Robert F. Marx (born 1923, American). A pioneering scuba diver best known for his work with shipwrecks and sunken treasure. Considered controversial for his frequent and successful forays into treasure hunting. E. Lee Spence described him as "the true father of underwater archaeology."[3]
  • John Chatterton. The 1991 discovery and subsequent identification of the German submarine U-869, off the coast of New Jersey, has been the subject of several television documentaries including Hitler's Lost Sub, a two-hour special for the popular NOVA series on PBS. The same story was the subject of a book by Robert Kurson, called Shadow Divers. The movie rights have been purchased by 20th Century Fox. Chatterton has made over 160 dives to the wreck of the SS Andrea Doria and worked two seasons on the fabled treasure galleon Nuestra Señora de la Pura y Limpia Concepcion. [4] In 2008, Chatterton and his partner discovered and identified the wreck of the Golden Fleece off of the North coast of the Dominican Republic. The ship was that of Joseph Bannister, a pirate captain of the late 18th century. The discovery of the Golden Fleece was chronicled by writer Robert Kurson in his 2015 book Pirate Hunters.
  • John Mattera (born 1962) is a writer and American shipwreck explorer and the subject of the book Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson. Pirate Hunters is the story of two US divers, John Chatterton and John Mattera, finding the lost pirate ship Golden Fleece of Captain Joseph Bannister in the waters off the Dominican Republic in 2008. Mattera first became a certified diver in 1976, exploring the North Atlantic, he was an early pioneer of the shipwrecks in the waters around New York and New Jersey, performing penetration and decompression dives long before technical diving had a name. From the late 1970s on exploring some of the most famous shipwrecks of the northeast, with over sixty dives on the SS Andrea Doria and working two seasons on the fabled treasure galleon Nuestra Señora de la Pura y Limpia Concepcion, Guadalupe, Tolosa, San Josef. [5]
  • Philip Masters (1937–2007, American). Led the hunt for Blackbeard the pirate's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. His company, Intersal, Inc., under permit with the State of North Carolina, found the wreck in November 1996 while searching for the El Salvador. He was also part of the crew that salvaged HMS Feversham, a British warship that sank off Nova Scotia in 1711.[6] In April 2007 he received the prestigious Old North State Award for "outstanding public service to the State of North Carolina and the community."[7][8] Following his death Intersal continued the search for the El Salvador near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina.[9]
  • Brent Brisben (American). Best known for ownership and salvage of the 1715 Treasure Fleet. Brisben made headlines worldwide in 2015 when he and his crew recovered 4.5 Million Dollars worth of gold coins from the 1715 Fleet on the actual 300th anniversary of the sinking of the fleet.
  • E. Lee Spence (b. 1947, American). A pioneer in underwater archaeology, he is noted for his expertise on shipwrecks and sunken treasure. Born in Germany to an American spy master, Spence writes and edits reference books as well as magazines (Diving World, Atlantic Coastal Diver, Treasure, Treasure Diver, and Treasure Quest), and publishes magazines (ShipWrecks, Wreck Diver); and a published photographer. Spence was 12 when he found his first five shipwrecks.[10][11] Spence has salvaged over $50 million in valuable artifacts[12] and was responsible, through his archival research, for the location of the wrecks of the side-paddle-wheel steamers Republic[13] and Central America[14][15] from which over a billion dollars in treasure has been recovered.[16]
  • Captain Robert MacKinnon (b. 1950–present, Canadian). Known for finding the wreck of the Auguste in 1977. Covered in an issue of National Geographic 77-78. The estimated value of artifacts said to be worth hundreds of millions. Auguste was a full rigged sailing ship which sank at Aspy Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1761 while carrying exiles from the fall of New France. Auguste was a former French privateer ship which had been captured by the British and converted to a merchant ship.[17]
  • Martin Bayerle (b. 1951, American). Finder of the legendary shipwreck RMS Republic, an in-progress recovery for what may be the greatest treasure recovery of all time,The Tsar's Treasure, estimated to be worth in excess of $2 billion in gold coin, gold and silver bars, circulated coin and passenger valuables.
  • Tommy Gregory Thompson (currently held in jail). Known to lead the Columbus-America Discovery Group of Ohio at finding the wreck of the SS Central America and recovery of several tons of gold from it, jailed for default investors/creditors by US Marshalls.[18]
  • H. Charles Beil Historical Archaeologist (born 1959, American). Known for finding multiple smaller treasures and unknown ghost towns across America. Covered in an issue of Western and Eastern Treasures 2013. Has documented thousands of lost towns, mines and lost treasures at Treasure Illustrated. Known for debunking the Dents Run Gold Legend, Trabucco Gold Legend and the Legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine and other well known treasure legends in America.


Fictional characters include:


  1. Chisholm 1911.
  2. "Heinrich Schliemann: Improbable Archaeologist". The BAS Library. 2015-08-24. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  3. Spence, E. Lee. Spence's Guide to South Carolina. Nelson Southern Printing: Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, 1976.
  4. Kurson, Robert (2015). Pirate Hunters. Random House. ISBN 9781400063369.
  5. Kurson, Robert (2015). Pirate Hunters. Random House. ISBN 9781400063369.
  6. Martin, Douglas. "Philip Masters, True Amateur of History, Dies at 70". New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  7. "Phil Masters Receives Old North State Award". The Shoreline. Retrieved 24 March 2016. External link in |website= (help)
  8. "Old North State". Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  9. "Intersal, Inc". Intersal, Inc. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  10. Warner, Eugene (April 1970). "Diver Lee Spence". Sandlapper. Columbia, SC: 40–43.
  11. Hatch, Katherine. "Treasure Diver." Treasure World. February–March 1972, p. 44-45.
  12. King, Charles. "About the Author" (p. 517) in E. Lee Spence, Treasures of The Confederate Coast: the "Real Rhett Butler" & Other Revelations. Narwhal Press: Charleston/Miami, 1995.
  13. Nesmith, Jeff. "Ocean Treasure Company Has a Murky History Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine." Cox News Service: 3 June 2007.
  14. "Treasure." Life. March 1987.
  15. "Milliard-Skatten." Vi Menn. November 1989. p. 4-7.
  16. "£600M Gold in Them Thar Holds." The Sun, 16 September 1989, p. 11.
  17. Treasure Hunter: Diving for Gold on North America's Death Coast.


  • Tolstikov, Vladimir; Treister, Mikhail (1996). The Gold of Troy. Searching for Homer's Fabled City. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-3394-2. A catalog of the artifacts Schliemann excavated at Troy, with photographs.
  • Wood, Michael (1987). In Search of the Trojan War. New American Library. ISBN 0-452-25960-6.
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