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Digitization Dispatch: Ancient Treasure, Supernatural Guidance, and Crowd Control

This month, we feature another new addition from the National Museum of the American Indian's Vine Deloria, Jr. Library into the digital collection housed at the Internet Archive, here.  The American Ethnological Society's 1860 description of an event has all the elements of a great Hollywood heist movie: likable protagonists, the quest for riches, and a lesson on the importance of secrecy, especially when the loot is within arm's reach of a town full of likable protagonists with their own quests to fulfill.

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In 1858, two farmers discovered gold while tending corn crops in the Chiriqui province in Panama. Remarkably, they excavated the source undetected for nearly a year before word of the site spread into the populace of nearby towns and villages. Mining the cache in concealed fits and spurts, they reportedly lifted about 130 pounds of gold in the form of idols and relics which occupied the tombs of the ancient graveyard or Huacal. But not every tomb in the graveyard contained the gold that fueled their search. Many simply housed pottery or other, less marketable, tokens. The Antiquary's Magazine: or, Relics of Past Men, Tribes and Nations, reports the farmer's reported ability to distinguish between the profitable tombs and the cheaper versions laid in the divining power of one farmer's son. He constructed an apparatus from a steel rod and a wire while chanting until the rod showed him the way. The report goes on to debunk the swindle but never offers an explanation for the farmers' luck in finding so many valuable pieces. By May 1959, the public had discovered the famers' secret and in the weeks following, nearly 1000 pounds of gold are reported to have been taken from the ransacked graveyard.
That's a movie I'd watch.

The report also includes a more complete (and less spellbinding) description of various relics found among the tombs, bulletins from subsequent meetings, and a description of the Grave Creek Mound in Virginia.




  1. This is absolutely I movie I would watch, too. Thank you for this post and for letting me know about it. Regards!

  2. Very interesting. When I hear or read stories or reports like that I always imagine how it would be to live In those days. I relly like to fantasize about that.

  3. Thank you so much for making this vital information available. Truly those who know and yield to supernatural guidance are most blessed.

    Paul F Davis – author of ‘Waves of God’ and ‘Supernatural Fire’

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