Belize is replete with ancient treasure. As the center of the mysterious Maya civilization, the country has hundreds of Maya sites – most undiscovered and unexplored.
Maya sites are rich with valuable artifacts such as jade ornaments, gold masks and obsidian knives. A sample of ancient treasure below shows an intricate jade necklace and seashells used by the Maya as currency. Most of the objects are over two thousand years old and kept in museums here and abroad.
The first European to make Belize his home was Gonzalo Guerrero. This Spanish soldier who was shipwrecked off the Yucatan joined the Maya and is known as the father of the Mestizos.
British Honduras as it was then known was a popular hiding place for British and Scottish pirates who would raid and capture treasure ships from the New World bound for Spain. Many undocumented shipwrecks laden with treasure abound off the treacherous Barrier Reef. And modern history is rife with tales of buried treasure left by the many pirates that made the area on the Yucatan coast their lair from the 16th century.
Treasure and Shipwrecks Off Belize
Sir Robert Marx, a noted marine historian, has compiled lists of known shipwrecks in his book “Shipwrecks of the Western Hemisphere”. The following list, specific to Belize and Yucatan (Chinchorro Atoll), is excerpted from his publication.
1749 A hurricane of Sept. 18:at least 20 English merchantmen were totally lost on coast and off cayes and reefs. 1751 English merchantman, the “Monmouth”, Capt. Wydham, on his way to London, wrecked on Glovers Key: crew was saved. 1751 Two Rhode Island sloops and a Jamaican snow lost on the north keys (Lighthouse Reef 1764 English merchantman, “Mary Oxford”, coming from Jamaica lost on Turneffe Island. 1774 Two ships wrecked on Glover’s Reef: English merchantman, “Argyle”, Capt. Fisher, about 5 leagues (a league is about 3 nautical miles) from the southwestern end of the reef: the American ship “Polly”, Capt Waid, going to New York, on the Northeastern end of the reef, crews and part of cargo saved.
1780 The English ship “Live Oak”, sailing to Jamaica, wrecked on the coast at Black River (Sittee River), crew was saved. 1786 English merchantman, “Assistance”, Capt Galt, coming from Jamaica, lost crossing the bar at Black River 1786 Unidentified Scottish ship, Capt Carr, wrecked on Glovers reef, the crew saved.
1787 On Sept. 2, (a hurricane), 30 plus English merchantmen were on coast and off-lying areas; 15 were lost in the port of Belize. The only ship identified by name was the “HMS Triumvirate” lost at St. George’s Caye which was carrying a large amount of silver specie. The large ballast pile off St George’s Caye may be from this ship. 1793 English gunship, “HMS Advice”, with 4 cannon, Capt Edward Tyrell, lost to leeward of Rey Bokell (southern tip of the Turneffe Atoll), her crew saved. 1793 English merchantman “Chance”, Capt. Reed, coming from Jamaica, wrecked on Glover’s Reef. 1803 English merchantman “Fishburn”, Capt Leake, sailing to London lost on a reef near Belize, Feb. 19.
1804 A ship of unknown registry, “Mentor”, Capt. Simpson, coming from Jamaica, lost on “the main reef” near Belize, part of cargo saved. 1807 English ship “General Don”, Capt Messeroy, coming from France lost on Glovers Reef. 1808 English merchantmen, “Perseverance”, Capt. M’Nutt, coming from Jamaica, lost near Belize on Dec. 20, but the crew was saved. 1814 Ship of unknown registry, “Pompey”, Capt Cowlan wrecked on “the main reef”, March 31, cargo of wine saved. 1815 Scottish merchantman, “Lord Blandtyre”, Capt M’Lea, coming from Jamaica, wrecked in August on the “Southern Four Keys” (Lighthouse Reef). 1818 American ship, “Enterprise”, Capt Wayne, sailing from the Bahamas to New Orleans, lost on March 9, near Belize, the crew saved. 1818 English merchantman, “John Winslow”, Capt Hodges, coming from Liverpool, lost July 26 on the “main reef”, cargo and crew saved. 1819 English merchantman, “Vestol”, Capt Hutchinson sailing to London wrecked on Corker Key (Caye Caulker), in August, crew and part of cargo saved.
One of the two wrecks described off Caye Caulker-Caye Chapel may be from this vessel. 1821 English merchantman, “Barrrosa”, Capt. Anderson, coming from London totally lost on Nov. 8 on the “Southern Fourth Reef” (Lighthouse Reef), crew and most of cargo saved. 1822 American ship “Phoebe Ann” sailing to New York wrecked near Belize about April 11.