Throughout human history, circa 3 million ships have sunk to the bottom of the sea. Out of these, only 0.1%, or 3,000 ships, were carrying valuable cargo. The seas of Europe are full of priceless treasures. The ships that sank centuries ago are still keeping their secrets and precious items. If you were to pile all the gold that lies on the bottom of seas and oceans together, it would exceed the gold produced in the 20th and 21st centuries put together.
The Mediterranean is one of the richest seas in terms of the number of gold caches found in it. Between the 16th and the 19th centuries, about 800 ships went down in the Med, 30% of which carried gold, silver and jewelry.
For over 50 years, divers have been looking for the so-called Rommel's Treasure near the shores of Corsica. These are the gold coins, unique ornaments and priceless paintings that German general Erwin Rommel captured and stole in North Africa.
In 1943, Rommel sent his booty to Germany across the Mediterranean. Ironically, the ship was sunk by the British navy. The cargo was classified, so nobody knew about the treasures that filled the hull. In the late 60's, long after Rommel's death, a list of the stolen valuables was accidentally discovered in an archive. The load's overall value is estimated at half a billion dollars.
Over the past 80 years, underwater archeologists have been studying the eastern half of the Mediterranean, where the ancient naval routes passed. They found a whole fleet of 12 ships lying at the depth of 2 kilometers. It's a veritable cemetery: the Roman, Greek and Ottoman ships buried here date from the 3rd to the 19th century.
Thanks to the modern equipment and underwater HD cameras, researchers managed to obtain high-resolution photos of the sea bottom. The artifacts they discovered included ancient Chinese porcelain, Italian ceramics, gems, gold, and items made by 14 different cultures, which is in itself unique.
Only a few of the ships have been studied in details; others are still proving hard to reach, so it's hard to know what 'golden' secrets they conceal.
The Med still guards many treasures, hunted for by both licensed companies and 'pirate' divers. It will take people centuries to discover all of the sea's secrets.
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