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Bennett Brooks
Bennett Brooks

Pirate Treasures: The Best Places to Hunt for Hidden Gems and Gold

Pirate Treasures: Facts, Legends and Myths

Pirate treasures are one of the most captivating topics in history. They evoke images of adventure, danger, wealth and mystery. But what are pirate treasures, exactly? How did pirates acquire them, and what did they do with them? And how much do we really know about them?

To answer these questions, we need to explore the history of piracy, which spans more than 2000 years and different regions of the world. We also need to examine the sources and challenges of pirate research, which include historical documents, archaeological evidence, oral traditions, fictional accounts and popular culture. Finally, we need to separate the facts from the legends and myths that have shaped our perception of pirate treasures over time.

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Pirate Treasures in History

Ancient and Medieval Piracy

Piracy is as old as maritime commerce and warfare. The earliest documented instances of piracy date back to the 14th century BC, when a group of sea raiders known as the Sea Peoples attacked the ships and coastal settlements of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. Piracy continued to flourish in these regions throughout antiquity, as well as in other parts of the world, such as China, India, Southeast Asia and Africa.

The goods and valuables looted by pirates varied depending on their targets and markets. They included food, lumber, cloth, animal hides, spices, metals, jewels, coins, slaves, weapons, ships and even people. Some pirates also engaged in ransom, extortion, smuggling and trade with other pirates or local communities.

Some of the famous ancient and medieval pirates include:

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  • The Phoenicians, who were both traders and raiders in the Mediterranean Sea.

  • The Vikings, who sailed from Scandinavia to plunder Europe, Asia and North America.

  • The Moors, who raided Christian ships and coasts from North Africa.

  • Zheng Chenggong (also known as Koxinga), who led a fleet of Chinese rebels against the Qing dynasty and established a kingdom in Taiwan.

The Golden Age of Piracy

The golden age of piracy is generally considered to be the period between 1650 and 1720, when piracy reached its peak in terms of numbers, scope and impact. This era involved three main regions: the Caribbean Sea, where English, French and Dutch pirates preyed on Spanish treasure fleets; the Indian Ocean, where the English, French and Dutch pirates attacked the ships of the Mughal Empire and the East India Company; and the West African coast, where pirates raided the slave trade and the gold and ivory commerce. The golden age of piracy also reached North America, where pirates operated from New England to the Carolinas.

The pirates of this era were mostly former privateers, buccaneers and outlaws who turned to piracy for various reasons, such as seeking greater freedom, wealth and fame, escaping from harsh conditions or persecution, or rebelling against colonial authorities. They often formed alliances and confederations, such as the Flying Gang and the Brethren of the Coast, and elected their own captains and quartermasters. They also adopted their own flags, such as the Jolly Roger, to intimidate their enemies and communicate their identity.

Some of the most notorious pirates of this era include:

  • Henry Morgan (c. 16351688), who led several raids against Spanish colonies and ships in the Caribbean.

  • Bartholomew Roberts (16821722), who captured over 400 vessels in his four-year career.

  • Edward Teach (c. 16801718), better known as Blackbeard, who terrorized the Atlantic coast with his fearsome appearance and reputation.

  • Anne Bonny (c. 1697c. 1782) and Mary Read (c. 16901721), who disguised themselves as men and fought alongside other pirates.

Modern Piracy

Piracy has not disappeared in the modern world. It still exists in some regions, such as Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, and Latin America. The motives and methods of modern pirates are similar to those of their predecessors: they seek to profit from stealing or hijacking ships, cargoes, or passengers, using weapons, speedboats, and radios. However, they also face new challenges, such as increased naval patrols, satellite surveillance, and international cooperation.

The weapons, tactics and targets of modern pirates vary depending on the region and situation. Some examples are:

  • In Southeast Asia, pirates often target small fishing boats, cargo ships, or oil tankers, using knives, guns, or rocket-propelled grenades. They sometimes board ships at night or disguise themselves as fishermen or coast guard officers.

  • In the Horn of Africa, pirates mainly target large commercial vessels, such as container ships or oil tankers, using assault rifles, machine guns, or rocket launchers. They often operate from mother ships that launch smaller skiffs to chase and board their prey.

  • In the Gulf of Guinea, pirates mostly target oil platforms, tankers, or supply vessels, using automatic weapons or explosives. They sometimes kidnap crew members or workers for ransom or demand a share of the oil revenue.

  • In Latin America, pirates mainly target tourist boats, yachts, or cruise ships, using handguns or machetes. They sometimes rob or assault passengers or crew members or take hostages for ransom.

The international community is dealing with piracy in various ways, such as enhancing maritime security and cooperation, prosecuting and punishing pirates according to international law, providing humanitarian aid and development assistance to affected regions, and raising awareness and education among seafarers and travelers.

Pirate Treasures in Legends and Myths

Buried Treasure

One of the most enduring myths about pirate treasures is that they buried them in secret locations marked by maps or clues. The truth is that pirates rarely buried their treasure; they usually spent it quickly on goods or pleasures in port towns or pirate havens. Burying treasure was impractical and risky; it required time, One of the most enduring myths about pirate treasures is that they buried them in secret locations marked by maps or clues. The truth is that pirates rarely buried their treasure; they usually spent it quickly on goods or pleasures in port towns or pirate havens. Burying treasure was impractical and risky; it required time, labor, and trust, and it meant leaving behind valuable assets that could be used for trade or defense. Pirates also had to constantly move from one place to another to avoid capture or competition, so returning to a buried stash was not always feasible or safe.

However, there were some exceptions to this rule. The most famous one was Captain William Kidd, who allegedly buried part of his loot on Gardiner's Island off the coast of Long Island, New York, in 1699. He was later captured and executed in London, and his treasure was never recovered. Other pirates who reportedly buried their treasure include Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Henry Avery, Francis Drake, and Thomas Tew. Some of these treasures have been the subject of numerous searches and legends, but none have been conclusively found.

The idea of buried treasure became popularized by fictional accounts, such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883), which featured a map with an "X" marking the spot where the pirate Flint hid his gold. Treasure maps and clues also became part of pirate lore, such as the cryptic message left by the pirate Olivier Levasseur (La Buse), who threw a necklace with a coded inscription into the crowd before his execution in 1730. The necklace supposedly contained the location of his vast treasure, which has never been deciphered or discovered.

Pirate Culture and Code

Pirates were not just ruthless robbers; they also had their own culture and code of conduct that governed their lives on board their ships. Pirates came from different backgrounds, nationalities, and religions, but they shared a common bond of rebellion against authority and a desire for freedom and equality. They often formed alliances and confederations, such as the Flying Gang and the Brethren


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