Treasure found in the Bahamas represents the proceeds of slavery. There I said it! I say it because we need to look at this hackneyed, worm-infested idea of treasure and artefacts with new eyes and new intent. Every concerted effort, must be made, in order to tell the true history of these blood offerings once fished out of Bahamian waters; as well as, any other pieces that may be pulled out of these sovereign seas. We must hold on to them for the sake of Bahamian national history.
1500 ~ 1800s – THE SILVER MINES OF SOUTH AMERICA
In the silver mines of South America, as much as 100,000 metric tons of silver were produced between 1500 and 1800. One of the most famous South American mines was located on the mountain of Potosi, in the nation of Bolivia. Potosi produced great amounts of silver that provided enormous wealth for Spain.
The Native Americans, or Indians as the Spaniards called them, were put to work, mining the land. The Spanish encountered problems using Indians as slaves. They found the Indians could not handle the heavy labor that was required to work in the mines. They also had little resistance to European diseases such as smallpox and typhus, and they began to die by the thousands.
Enslaved Africans were put work in the mines to replace the Indians. Spanish records show more and more Africans were requested and that the Spaniards considered Africans to be essential in the operation of the mines. Africans were rewarded by their hard work and received special privileges the Indians did not get, such as the right to carry weapons and wear European clothing.
Miners would work from dawn to dusk, and it is estimated that the average working life of a miner was six to eight years. They were subjected to hard labor in dark, poorly ventilated tunnels and exposed to the dangers of cave-ins, floods, fires, and explosions. Despite the working conditions, Africans preferred mining to plantation work. Miners were allowed more freedom of movement, and they received rations of tobacco and brandy. They had opportunities to enrich themselves as well. Mine owners often allowed slaves to prospect for themselves once they met a certain quota. By such means, many mine workers were able to purchase their freedom. Some migrated to cities where they found new trades, but many remained in the mining areas and continued to work as independent prospectors.
ALL OF IT REPRESENTS THE PROCEEDS OF BLOOD MONEY
Spanish treasure, yeah right! How did they get it? Who worked for it? Who died for it? How many slaves were worked to death, in the Spanish controlled colonies, in the New World to allow the making of just one coin in the name of Spain.
All of it, right down to the cannon ball, or the hull of a sunken ship, represents some part and portion of negro slavery. If it wasn’t British slavery, it was Spanish slavery or French slavery or Dutch slavery or Portuguese slavery or American slavery. If it wasn’t gold, silver, coins or any other form of wealth being taken to European colonies from their slave colonies, it was these things being sent by kings and queens to help buy more slaves to grow these colonies.
Casting it all through the steely glare of the modern eye, even the very ships that were wrecked, are considered vehicles used in the commission of the most egregious acts perpetrated in the New World.
And as the proceeds of historical slavery, these artefacts and treasures, should not be further profited upon, by allowing our future selves to privately invest in, privately inherit, or privately sell.
Publicly display every one of them!
COLONIAL RULES – FIRST OPTIONS WERE TO BRITISH MUSEUM
Few people know that the British Museum, in London, once had first option on any treasure found in the Bahamas, while it was under colonial rule. Treasure found in the Bahamas supposedly belonged to government. The government of the Bahamas, was once overseen by the British for over three hundred years.
The instance of the 72-pound brick of solid silver, (cast in 1652), a treasure once belonging to Philip IV, King of Spain, and found in 1950, shows how this once steadfast rule of found ownership of artefacts, in the Bahamas, didn’t always apply. The silver brick was sold privately. The person who bought it, sold or gave it to the Bahamian government.
The most important question is, what has become of this substantial and priceless historical artefact found in the Bahamas?
It was once on permanent display in the building which was once the Bahamas Development Board. Where is it now?
1950 – OLD SPANISH TREASURE FOUND IN JUST TWELVE FEET OF WATER
The news of the incredible treasure find made by Bahamians Roscoe Thompson and Howard Lightbourn sent other treasure hunters, from around the world, to their travel agents. Dozens were trying to be the first to get to the Bahamas to treasure hunt for themselves.
A 72 pound brick of solid sliver marked from the year 1652, and belonging to the King of Spain, Philip IV, was a dream find. What made it even more incredible was that it was found in relatively shallow water. In just 12 feet of water, off Gorda Cay, Spanish cannon balls, coins, and a 72 pound brick of silver had lain undisturbed for almost 300 years.
(The Star Bulletin, Sunday 17 April 1960)
1953 – 72-Lb. SILVER BAR ON DISPLAY with Accompanying Booklet on its History
(The Boston Sunday Globe, April 12, 1953)
1956 – BAHAMAS TREASURE STILL IN THE INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC EYE
Most treasure is recovered by individuals who keep it secret from tax hungry governments, but a few years ago there was recovered by pair of Bahamian adventurers treasure lost when on its way from South America Silver mines to the treasuries of King Philip IV
(The Baltimore Sun, Sunday, 19 February 1956)
1966 BAHAMAS GOVERNMENT GIVES EXCLUSIVE CONTRACTS TO AMERICANS TO EXPLORE FOR TREASURE
By 1966, drunk with the excitement created by the 1950 find and the subsequent Lucaya coin discovery of 1965, treasure madness took hold of everyone, including the Bahamas Government.
The UBP government handed out exclusive treasure hunting contracts to American companies.
What was found, if anything, remains a mystery.