There has never really been a formal, nationally published accounting of all the archeological treasure, in the possession, of the Bahamas government. There should be! The islands are small enough to achieve this. In every Bahamian school, there should be books, from every institution purporting to be the possessors of nationally significant artefacts, in the Bahamas, which detail a complete history of the items in their possession.
1976 – Bahamas: centre of a new research on the beginnings of civilisation
Significant archeological interest has long rested in the waters and on the land that is the Bahamas. Many theories regarding carbon dating for example, were made scientific fact, by researchers painstakingly examining the unique limestone of the Bahamas. Hundreds, if not untold thousands of pieces of national history have been stolen away from the Bahamas, long before its colonial government realised or even cared for its future significance.
Dr. David Zink of Lamar University, Texas and Dr. Doris Johnson, president of the Bahamas Senate, are pictured at the opening of the Bahamas Antiquities Institute’s marine museum in front of a display of stones from the waters near Bimini. Dr Zink is conducting research there on behalf of the museum into what he claims is a megalithic site similar to Stonehenge and possibly linked to Atlantis.
(The Brandon Sun, Canada, Thursday, 21 October 1976)
1982 – An International Attempt To Address Underwater Looting of National Treasures
In 1982, the first International Conference on Maritime Antiquities met, a tentative conference was scheduled to be held in the Bahamas, three years later, in 1985. In attendance was Bahamian, Dr. Doris Johnson, Director of the Bahamas Antiquities Institute and Chairman of the Advisory Council.
(Beatrice Daily, Nebraska, Saturday, 30 October, 1982)
Between 1972 to 1999, according to a local newspaper, there were 71 licenses granted to persons conducting salvaging operations for artefacts. Forty-six of them apparently never reported anything. What happened to rest of the licences? The standard split was a 75 to 25 percent ratio, with the majority going to the salvager and the lesser percentage going to the Bahamas government. This old provision worked on kind of a type of honesty principle on the part of the salvagers.
In 1998, the Bahamas Government passed the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Act. The law now is that ownership, of any artefacts, discovered in the Bahamas vests solely with the Government. Only the Minister, on behalf of the Government, can disclaim this provision.
The question is, what happened to items discovered prior to 1998. Countless questions abound when we consider the significance of being the guardians of our physical history. How are these priceless treasures being preserved? Where are they kept? Have they been sold, mortgaged, pilfered or lent? Who is in charge? Were are the books on them? When can we see them? Who can tell us all about them?
Does the portion of the Spanish treasure found off of Grand Bahama, given over to the Bahamian government, still exist? Is it still there being kept in trust for the Bahamian people or has it disappeared? We know that THREE of the coins were used in 1966.
If half of the estimated 10,000 coins were given over, then 4,997 of these coins should still be in the Bahamas. If just a quarter of the coins were given over, then 2,497 coins should left. If just ten were given over, then 7 should be left.
The question is, do these priceless historical coins still exist in the Bahamas, after they were found half a century ago, less than a mile off the shoreline of Grand Bahama.
In 1965, a cache of priceless coins dating back some 350 years, were found by American treasure hunters in the waters, less than a mile from shore, off Grand Bahama. They were found in a sunken Spanish galleon, which was wrecked on the shallow reefs, sometime in the early 1600s.
There were several Spanish galleons which are thought to have been wrecked, while carrying treasure, as they sailed through the Bahama Bank. The route through the Bahamas provided not only a shortcut to and from the New World, it also provided hiding places for Spanish ships as they dodged their European enemies.
(The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, 22 October 1967)
Almost immediately a physical and legal battle ensued. As news of the find made major headlines, opportunists came to try to get their share of a multimillion dollar find. Some 10,000 coins, pieces of eight, as they are called, represent a priceless token to a part of Bahamian history that has been little explored.
(Fort Lauderdale News, Monday, 05 July 1965)
1966 – As News Of The Treasure Find Spread, All Sorts Tried To Steal Their Piece Of It
(The Atlanta Constitution, 07 January 1965)
1966 – Bahamas Government Sends Police To Guard Treasure Found Off Grand Bahama
(The Miami News, Friday 08 January, 1965)
1966 – PREMIER SIR ROLAND SYMONETTE, GIVES THREE TREASURE COINS ENSHRINED IN PAPERWEIGHT TO QUEEN
We know that the Bahamas government was in possession of some of the coins found in 1965. We know this because, just a year later in February 1966, three of the coins were put into a paperweight, and presented to the Queen on her visit to Nassau.
Of the estimated 10,000 coins found, how many were turned over to the Bahamas government in 1965? Minus the THREE coins used in 1966 for the gift for the Queen, HOW MANY OF THESE COINS ARE LEFT?
(The Tampa Tribune, Monday, February 28, 1966)
Archeological and anthropological histories of the Bahamas span multiple European countries, multiple nationalities and a dozen or so complexly interwoven histographies.
In the modern day, as time moves forward archeological artefacts, represents substantial monetary and social wealth to small island nations, who possess very little of their own history in a physical, tangible form.
Today, we have companies seeking to sell interests in an artefact history that the native Bahamians themselves have not yet begun to fully understand its significance or their important link to it.