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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2005) Headlines (09/2005) Headlines (11/2005)   Vol. 39 October 2005 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the October 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


The family of a man who claims to have found millions of dollars worth of gold and antique guns in a desert cave says he's tired of dealing with the federal government, and plans to just leave the cache where he found it.

"He's having a terrible time with it," Glen Taylor said recently of his son, Scott.

Scott Taylor, 34, has been a virtual recluse since news broke this week on two Salt Lake television stations that he allegedly stumbled across a lost fortune while hiking on public land in west Utah about a month and a half ago.

Taylor told the television stations he found 280 gold bricks with "U.S. Cavalry" stamped on each, two Civil War-era rifles, a six-shooter and dynamite.

"He is the only one who has claimed to see it and knows the location. Until he shares that with somebody, nothing can be verified," Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Laura Williams said in a recent interview.

The problem, the Taylors say, is the federal government's unwillingness to kick over some of the profit as a finder's fee, which they say one Brigham Young University professor estimated should be 40 percent.

"It's not up to us to negotiate," Williams said. "It's not our gold, if it exists.

"If his story is true, and clearly marked, we know who it belongs to, and the Army can take it," she said, adding that Scott Taylor is not returning their phone calls, either.

"We think at this point that the best thing for us to do is not make a comment," said Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd. "It would be too hypothetical. We would have to know a lot more about what's going on."

So, rather than battle this out in court, the Taylors say they will let the gold sit. Taylor couldn't simply claim the gold as a find, Williams said. "If it was ore in the ground, he'd need a mineral permit to remove it. If it's smelted into gold bars, it's protected by ARPA," the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.

Glen Taylor said his son left the cache where he found it because he immediately recognized its historical importance.

From The Associated Press, submitted by many readers via e-mail.


A rare stamp from a botched batch- depicting an upside-down airplane- has been sold at auction for $525,000, the highest-ever price for a 20th century U.S. stamp, the auctioneer said recently.

The misprinted 1918 "Jenny" stamp was bought by an anonymous collector, Siegel Auction Galleries said in a statement.

The stamp, which was particularly well-preserved, was from a pane of 100 inverted 24-cent "Jenny" stamps, many of which are no longer in good condition, the auctioneer said.

The stamps depict a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," a World War I training aircraft that became an airmail plane. About 700 of the stamps were misprinted, but inspectors caught all of but 100 before they were sold.

From The Courier, submitted by Jeff Hauenstein, Findlay, OH.


Bud Hardcastle and Charlie Holman figure the Confederacy never truly surrendered. Its leaders simply buried their dreams for the day the South would rise again.

After 30 years of research, Hardcastle and Holman are convinced that enterprising disciples of Dixie stashed millions of dollars in gold and silver- now probably worth billions- in locations across North America, including Oklahoma and possibly northeast Texas, to help finance a second Civil War.

"The true story of the South's never been told," said Holman, a balding, 56-year-old denturist and former three-time state high school wrestling champion. "A lot of Southerners know the story, but they've not told anyone."

Enough buried booty has been recovered over the last century to ignite a prairie fire of interest in treasure hunting. Hundreds of real-life Indiana Joneses scour remote terrain from Canada to Mexico for what they believe is a mother lode of antique coins and rare documents.

It's an oft-quirky subculture that deploys high-tech gear and old-fashioned detective work in a quest to unravel the secrets of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a pro-South society credited with masterminding the elaborate underground financial network.

"The money would be wonderful, but I set out to prove the truth," said Hardcastle, a portly, 66-year-old used car dealer who learned of the secretive pro-South group through his fascination with legendary outlaw Jesse James.

Hardcastle now thinks that Jesse James, a Missouri guerrilla fighter during the Civil War and train and bank robber afterward, was "comptroller of the KGC." He says he thinks that finding the loot could also help him determine the truth about how- and when- the outlaw died.

According to some treasure hunters, burial was the surest means at the time of protecting the fortune that included gold and silver from the Confederate treasury, donations from Southern sympathizers, wartime raids on northern banks and post-war robberies.

No single ledger or document has been recovered that details the extent of the caches, but treasure hunters said they have uncovered evidence of an intricate, geometric grid system used to determine the locations of hidden loot across North America.

Further, they said, it appears the Knights of the Golden Circle built a network of sentries who knew the location of each cache, protected it, and then shared the information with subsequent generations.

On a recent spring day, Holman and Hardcastle hiked to near the summit of Buzzard's Roost, a peculiar, rocky hill near this tiny burg, about 65 miles from Oklahoma City.

Amid a howling, 40-mph-plus wind, they described four different discoveries of buried treasure since the early 1900s, all within a quarter-mile of the southwestern Oklahoma landmark.

They also pointed out what they believe are coded messages carved into rock that the Knights may have left as clues.

"This was a hot spot," Hardcastle said. "This was Indian Territory- it was a good place for them to come" because it offered an almost unlimited number of hideouts and few authorities.

Holman and Hardcastle have devoted more than 30 years- and more than $100,000 each- to chasing the secrets of the South, hoping to unravel mysteries that involve clandestine networks of Confederate loyalists, Southern sympathizers in the North and bandits like James.

In his pursuit of James, Hardcastle spent about $9,000 on legal fees that led to the exhumation in Granbury, Texas, of what he thought was James' body. It wasn't, but he now believes the grave was misidentified by one plot.

Now, he figures his pursuit of the Knights of the Golden Circle treasure may be a faster route to the truth about James.

It's a two-fisted, hard-nosed world where few are willing to talk much about their successes or join forces, afraid they'll be double-crossed and lose out on a discovery.

Hardcastle and Holman said they learned hard lessons about sharing information: In one case, other treasure hunters they befriended went behind their backs and unearthed the loot. All Hardcastle got from the discovery was an 1880 silver dollar.

Another time, about a decade ago, Hardcastle was asked by a landowner to search his land and found an old Wells Fargo safe. He was asked to leave before the safe was opened, but he said he believed it contained KGC money.

As far as any other treasure he may have discovered, Hardcastle said, "If I did (find any), I wouldn't own up to it."

The two men joined forces in 1988. Since then, they've clomped through overgrown fields together, dodging rattlesnakes and mountain lions. They've climbed hills and small mountains to study signs of Knight activity. Hardcastle even lowered Holman 15 feet by rope into a dark cave believed to be a James hideout where treasure could be buried, but much of it had caved in.

Hardcastle and Holman are working several promising leads, using newly acquired night cameras to investigate particularly dense, rugged areas. Neither will say where.

Bob Brewer, an Arkansas-based treasure hunter who co-authored the book "Shadow of the Sentinel: One Man's Quest to Find the Hidden Treasure of the Confederacy," said he, too, believes he is close to a major breakthrough, but he declined, for now, to be interviewed at length.

From The Charlotte Observer, submitted by David M. Wolan, Charlotte, NC.


Researchers using computer analysis have traced the origin of the famed Hope Diamond, concluding that it was cut from a larger stone that was once part of the crown jewels of France.

A French connection had been suspected for the Hope, but the new study shows just how it would have fit inside the larger French Blue Diamond and how that gem was cut, Smithsonian gem curator Jeffrey Post explained.

The deep blue Hope Diamond is the centerpiece of the gem collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, famed for its claimed history of bad luck for its owners. It's been good fortune for the museum, though, drawing millions of visitors.

Post said the new analysis of the diamond took a year, with researchers using sketches from pre-Revolutionary France, scientific studies of the French crown jewels and computer models.

"This new Hope Diamond research would not have been possible 10 years ago," said Post. "What is exciting is that we are constantly learning new information about our collections as we apply new high-tech research methods. Even the Hope Diamond is grudgingly giving up some of its secrets."

The research helps confirm the Hope Diamond as originating with a 115-carat stone found in India in 1668. That stone was sold to King Louis XIV of France, who had it cut into the 69-carat French Blue. The French Blue was stolen during the French Revolution.

Just over twenty years later, after the statute of limitations expired, a large blue diamond was quietly put up for sale in London, and eventually Henry Philip Hope purchased it.

Finally donated to the Smithsonian by jeweler Harry Winston, the now 45.52-carat stone is the world's largest blue diamond.

The team of researchers led by Post and Steven Attaway, an engineer and gem cutter, as well as Scott Sucher and Nancy Attaway, gem cutting experts, compiled the new analysis.

While the French Blue no longer exists, Post said the sketches of it from France were quite detailed and allowed preparation of a computer model of that stone.

In 1700, French scientists had also studied several stones from the royal collection, determining their specific gravity and other details.

Their analysis of other stones that still exist was quite accurate, Post said in a telephone interview, so the researchers felt the data on the French Blue was also probably accurate.

After using the sketches and analysis to make the computer model of the French Blue, and at the same time measuring the Hope Diamond and entering that data into the computer, the researchers "virtually placed the Hope back inside the French Blue," Post said.

"It turns out it actually fits perfectly in only one way, but at that orientation, when you saw how it fit, you could see why it was cut the way it is," Post said.

"They cut the corners off the French Blue, changed slightly the angle of the bottom facets, and that produced the Hope Diamond," he said.

Indeed, some of the facets of the current diamond may even be left over from the French Blue.

From The Providence Journal, submitted by Bill Ladd, Providence, RI.


New skull measurements from a set of hobbit-sized human skeletons discovered last year in Indonesia bolster the controversial claim that the fossils belong to a new human species, scientists said recently.

A computer reconstruction of the creature's brain revealed that it was unlike all others and could have been capable of advanced thought, an international team of researchers led by anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University reported.

Last year, scientists trumpeted the discovery of the bones on the isolated island of Flores and identified them as remains of a previously unknown species marooned there between 12,000 and 95,000 years ago, a time when modern Homo sapiens was thought to be Earth's sole human inhabitant. So far, archeologists have found bones from eight members of the species.

In the months since, some skeptical scholars have contended that the researchers only unearthed evidence of a human deformity.

The search for the creature's proper place in natural history centers on its pint-sized brain, which is a mere 25 cubic inches- about one-third the size of the modern human brain- a size more in keeping with those of prehuman primates that lived more than 3 million years ago.

So small a brain should be incapable of sophisticated thought, experts said; yet evidence suggests that the creatures managed to make stone tools, tended fires and organized hunts for pygmy elephants that once roamed the region.

If true, the creature effectively overturns scientific axioms about the relationship of brain size to intelligence.

But several anthropologists believe the creature's skull was a sign of a neurological disease called microcephaly that causes a small head, a large face, a sloping forehead, and, on occasion, a dwarfed body.

"I am very worried about that brain size," said anthropologist Robert Martin, provost of the Field Museum in Chicago, who challenged the claim for a new species. "It is unusually small, especially for something that is only 18,000 years old."

To dispel such doubts, researchers yesterday presented indirect evidence that the creature's brain was quite advanced despite its small size.

The researchers used medical diagnostic software to create a three-dimensional reconstruction of the creature's brain.

"Pulsating brains leave impressions inside the brain case, much as a hand shapes a tightly fitting glove," Falk explained.

They compared their reconstruction to brains taken from across the palette of human evolution, including that of an ape and three extinct prehuman species: Homo erectus, Australopithecus africanus, and Paranthropus aeithiopcus. They also compared it to a modern human brain, a modern pygmy brain, and that of a human with a microcephalic brain disorder.

Their work was funded by the National Geographic Society and published online in Science Express, an electronic adjunct of the journal Science.

"We found that the general overall shape of the hobbit's brain was unique," Falk said.

It combined primitive and relatively modern features in a way that set it apart from other species, Falk said. There was no resemblance to the diseased modern microcephalic brain.

In particular, the brain reconstruction revealed large temporal lobes associated with speech and the anatomical signature of structures in the pre-frontal cortex associated with high cognition in modern humans.

"I am bowled over," Falk said. "I never thought I would see this in a brain this small."

While researchers investigated the creature's brain structure, anthropologists in Indonesia were locked in a months-long squabble over custody for the rare find. The bones were only returned to their rightful repository at the Center for Archeology in Jakarta last week, archeologist Michael Morwood, who led the team that discovered the bones, said recently.

From The Providence Journal, submitted by Bill Ladd, Providence, RI.

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