It’s the dead of night on April 24, 1993, somewhere in France. A man called Paul Régis Hauser has dug a hole to a depth of more than six feet. Out of necessity he’s done this furtively. For now he carefully places a bronze owl in the hole. So starts a treasure hunt that will last for more than 25 years. And the reward for the finder is another owl – this time in gold.
Buried treasure has been the romantic stuff of dreams for many centuries. Witness Roman historian Dio Cassius, who recorded one tale from the early second century. He wrote that King Decebalus of Dacia actually re-routed a river in order to bury a huge cache of gold and silver. After later restoring the course of the river, he guaranteed the silence of the slaves who’d worked for him by killing them all.
Then of course there were pirates, especially those who terrorized the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries. In truth few pirates really buried their treasure. They were too busy spending it on wine, women and song, while frittering away the rest. But the idea of pirate booty buried on a desert island was cemented in the public mind by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson in the 19th century.