Left: Father Crespi with a metallic artifact at the church of Maria Auxiliadora. Right: Nivello, Hall, Moricz, Pena & Punin 1975.

Who Stole the Gold? Part 2: There is a lot of Smoke, But are There Any Smoking Guns?


[Read Part 1]

This investigation acknowledges that more than one party was in involved in illegal gold extraction, and that gold may have been extracted in more than one form. That said, let’s examine the evidence against each suspect.

Carlo Crespi Croci: Antiquities Merchant

As a point of clarification, readers who are familiar with the Tayos Caves story may object to the accusation that Father Crespi was a thief, since many sources assert that Crespi was “beloved” by the indigenous people he served in Cuenca. However, Crespi attended a mostly Kichua and mestizo population at his mission. Shuar communities living on their ancestral lands are another matter. Distinct indigenous nations cannot be lumped together as a generic group called “Indians.” It is true that the multi-talented Crespi penetrated  Shuar territory in 1927 in order to make a documentary film. This expedition may have served as a reconnaissance trip to assess potential gold sources. However, Crespi never returned to that area, nor did he establish a mission in that area, establishing his mission in urban Cuenca instead. Carlos Zavalla, in his tribute to Crespi, indicates that Crespi wanted to found a mission on the Morona River in 1927, but that the Ecuadorian military would not permit him to do it.

Photograph of Father Crespi with some local children.  Crespi Museum in the  Universidad Politécnica Salesiana. Credit:

Photograph of Father Crespi with some local children.  Crespi Museum in the  Universidad Politécnica Salesiana. Credit:

After graduating from Italy’s University of Milan and being ordained in the Salesian order, Crespi arrived in Cuenca in 1927, and that same year that he made a documentary film about the Shuar. Crespi lived in Ecuador for the rest of his life, surviving in the remote Andean city until his death in 1982. Almost immediately upon his arrival, Crespi began amassing archaeological artifacts. He requested these artifacts from indigenous members of his mission, to whom he would pay small amounts of money. It is quite possible that Crespi may have received valuable gold pieces, since he arrived when southeastern Ecuador was a hotbed of archaeological pillaging. In later years, in order to keep up the supply, locals brought him crudely worked, metallic copies of ancient art from a mishmash of cultures that were essentially worthless. When the Central Bank of Ecuador (CBE) came to examine Crespi’s collection, their agents bought any remaining ceramic pieces of value for 13M sucres (USD 433,000) but discarded the metal pieces in Crespi’s collection. Or, according to the definitive, eight-part film series made by the 2010 Ecuadorian expedition ( Cueva de los Tayos) , the CBE paid $10.6M to Padre Felix Roggia, Rector of the Salesian House of Cuenca on July 9, 1980 for part of the collection, excluding all the remaining metal plaques. Alejandro Vintimilla, manager of the CBE, confirms that the bank acquired approximately 5,000 archaeological pieces at that time.

According to earlier investigations made by Ancient Origins , by 1960, Crespi had amassed over 50,000 pieces. Accordingly, he asked the Vatican for permission to create a “museum” as part of the Salesian mission, which was granted. However, Crespi’s museum was not much more than a ramshackle warehouse, devoid of any type of scientific discipline in regard to categorization or display of objects. In addition, due to neglect or for other reasons, the warehouse of artifacts suffered two devastating fires, one in 1962 and the other in 1974. Glen Chapman, a Tayos Caves investigator, attributes these fires to arson.  According to other sources, many artifacts were stolen from the poorly curated storage facility.

In his 1998 compendium, “The Crespi Ancient Artifact Collection of Cuenca, Ecuador,” Chapman has other interesting things to say about Crespi. He relates that Crespi told him that: “[The Indians] just get [artifacts] from the caves and subterranean chambers in the jungle.” According to Chapman, “the articles in the trove have been discovered in sloppy, unsupervised, surreptitious digs by wholly untrained Jivaro Indian diggers.” Even worse, “some of the Indian diggers in Ecuador have cut up and reshaped genuinely ancient and priceless materials in order to get any kind of price at all for it.” However, not all the Shuar (pejoratively referred to here as the ‘Jivaro’) were in agreement on this tomb raiding. Chapman observes  that, “the Indians have killed at least four inquisitive outsiders in the last two years.” He then notes that, “Father Crespi regrets that he missed acquiring most of the treasure unearthed in the jungle, including most of the best articles, because he simply couldn’t match prices with other bidders.”  Most intriguingly for our story, Chapman notes that a member of a Latter Day Saints (LDS) mission, J. Golden Barton, who traveled to Ecuador in the 1970s, “heard rumors that much of the treasure had been shipped to Rome to the Vatican.”  Even more astoundingly, Barton asserts in his presentation at the 2005 AWRF Symposium that “the [Ecuadorian] government had intercepted [the] shipment of artifacts that were on their way to Rome.”

Gold and copper alloy fragment – Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño Museum - Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE). Photo credit: the author (2018).

Gold and copper alloy fragment – Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño Museum - Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE). Photo credit: the author (2018).

An earlier investigation by Ancient Origins corroborates this rumor. A senior member at a local university in Cuenca confirmed that “missing artifacts had been shipped to the Vatican in Italy.” According to investigator Victor Salazar, when Crespi’s Salesian compatriots were asked about the collection of artifacts after the second fire, they responded by saying, “If you want to see the pieces,  go to the Vatican and inquire about them there, because that is where they all are.” A video investigation entitled The Tayos Caves and the Vatican Conspiracy attributes the following comments to Salesian missionary, Father Raul Cosso: “Father Crespi arrived in Ecuador, taking command of his position, sent by that same Vatican in order to take all the things that he could find in the cave …. He was a man clearly instructed by the Vatican for a specific mission … Now members of the mission say that he sent a lot of things from the cave to the Vatican …. so many that, while he was sending art works to the Vatican, he also began to sell pieces to whomever, including the Ecuadorian state itself.”

It is clear that Father Crespi never entered the Tayos Caves, although several sources suggest that he located one of the entrances while he was filming his documentary in 1927. However, it is clear that Crespi “collected” valuable archaeological artifacts, and that many of these artifacts were looted from regional indigenous tombs and other repositories. At this point in time, it is impossible to determine how many of these artifacts were made of gold and other precious metals: the case against Carlo Crespi is not definitive. However, the intriguing threads offered here, along with the Shuars’ denunciation, make Crespi a likely suspect.

Navigating a crevasse within the Tayu Jee branch of the Tayos Caves. Photo credit: the author (2016).

Navigating a crevasse within the Tayu Jee branch of the Tayos Caves. Photo credit: the author (2016).

Juan Móricz: All Smoke and Mirrors

To evaluate the roles that Stanley Hall and Juan Móricz played in this archaeological mystery, this investigation draws from two important sources. The first is Stanley Hall’s own account of his adventures, Tayos Gold: the Archives of Atlantis . As for Móricz, his sensational book, The American Origin of the European People (1968), focuses more on his wild linguistic theories than on his adventures in the Tayos Caves. Móricz complained vociferously in an Ecuadorian court when Erick von Däniken usurped Móricz’ claims in his Gold of the Gods, but Móricz left no record of his explorations per se. However, Móricz worked with an Argentine confidante named Julio Goyén Aguado, and Goyén’s adventures –and therefore Móricz’--are meticulously recounted in Guillermo Aguirre’s biography, Lyrical and Profound: the Life of Julio Goyén Aguado . The works of Hall and Aguirre have important contributions to make regarding the fate of the Tayos Caves.  As we will see, both Hall and Móricz may be as culpable as Crespi, but their forays into the Caves had very different intentions.

Juan Móricz was a Hungarian-Argentine adventurer who made preposterous claims about the Tayos Caves. For example, in his notarized deposition dated July 21, 1969, Móricz claimed that he had discovered “objects of great cultural and historical value for humanity … especially metallic plates that most likely summarize the history of a vanished civilization of which we have no prior indication.” Móricz completed three important expeditions into the Tayos Caves. According to Aguirre, Móricz made a reconnaissance exploration alone in 1965. After much haggling, Móricz negotiated an expedition funded by the Mormons (LDS) who were looking for the apocryphal gold plates of the Angel Moroni.  Móricz grumbled about inadequate funding and lack of control over the expedition. The Latter Day Saints acceded grudgingly, but James Avril Jesperson, president of the LDS Andean Mission, remarked, “I signed off on the trip to investigate the situation . . .  We were of the opinion that Juan Móricz was trying to deceive us in order to obtain money.” Jesperson would later remark that Móricz’ “story of the golden plates is a hoax.” Later, in 1969, Móricz organized an expedition supported by the Ecuadorian military, which made two forays into the Caves.  Goyén accompanied Móricz on the 1968 and 1969 expeditions.

Tayos Cathedral: Moricz Expedition 1969. (

Tayos Cathedral: Moricz Expedition 1969. (

Stanley Hall was a British explorer who organized the famous British-Ecuadorian expedition of 1975 that included the astronaut Neil Armstrong. Prior to the Hall expedition, Móricz and Hall collaborated on organization, but again, Móricz complained about control and rights to any discoveries, and Móricz ended up not participating in the last great expedition to the Tayos Caves.

So what really interested Juan Móricz in the Tayos Caves? Reading between the lines of the historical records, it becomes clear that Móricz was scouting for mining opportunities. D. Golding reports that fellow Mormons Paul Cheesman and his assistant, Wayne Hamby, “learned that Móricz had formed a mining company to drill into the cave system of gold.” DDLA TV reported that Móricz represented 90 different mining operations in Ecuador. According to Aguirre, Ben Holbrook, an important director in the LDS Church, visited Móricz in 1977 and profited from Móricz’ expertise as a “mining entrepreneur, gaining possession of a gold deposit near those belonging to Móricz.” Even Manual Palacios Villavicencio, author of the self-published Forbidden Amerika ( Amérika Prohibida, 2013 ) and advocate for the idea that the Tayos Caves contained golden plates from ancient civilizations, confirms that Móricz was running a “mining camp.”

But it is Stanley Hall who most clearly confirms the true motivations of Móricz. In Tayos Gold (p. 22), Hall relates the following:

“I was in London in October 1982 when Móricz requested I inform British mining companies about his gold concessions in southeast Ecuador – to him, the true el Dorado! He sent by special courier an ore sample that assayed at 364 gms/tonne, and an estimated valuation of gold reserves in his Nambija hardrock concession of 10 billion U. S. dollars. Ultimately, a consortium was formed comprising Placer Mining Company of Canada, San Francisco Mining Corporation of the U.S.A., and Burnett and Hallamshire of Britain to develop 60,000 hectares of the Nambija hardrock and Yacuambi river [sic] alluvial deposits near Cumbaratza, in Morona-Santiago.”

Ecuador, Nambija - Gold Mine 1990. (Maurizio Costanzo/CC BY 2.0)

Ecuador, Nambija - Gold Mine 1990. (Maurizio Costanzo/ CC BY 2.0 )

Hall continues on page 23:

“In an ensuing legal battle Nambija was appropriated by a consortium consisting of a Canadian-Ecuadorian mining consultancy, the Ecuadorian Institute of Mining and, ultimately, DINE, the commercial division of the Army. The battle for Nambija was to continue for decades, the only beneficiaries being the many artisanal invaders who, with families to feed, preferred the sounds of picks and shovels to arguments. Illegal mining at Nambija has produced hundreds of tonnes of 22-carat gold . . .

In January 1983, from a hail of rocks thrown at ‘intruders’ – that is, geologists from Móricz’s hydra-headed consortium – 56  random samples assayed an average of 31.4 gms/tonne.”

Hall delivers the smoking gun by including in his account (p. 21) a telegram sent to him by Móricz in 1962, three years before his first foray into the Tayos Caves. The main body of the telegram states:



TELEX cable dated November 4, 1962 sent to Stanley Hall by Juan Móricz. Photo credit: Stanley Hall.

TELEX cable dated November 4, 1962 sent to Stanley Hall by Juan Móricz. Photo credit: Stanley Hall.

Clearly, Juan Móricz is prospecting for gold. Clearly, he is conducting mining operations in the transprovincial vicinity of the Tayos Caves complex. But does he actually extract gold or other precious materials from the Tayos Caves? The Shuar do not think so, and they direct their wrath at Father Crespi. But what do others have to say about gold prospector Juan Móricz? In contrast to the Shuar, they leave some tantalizing clues.

Goyén relates, via Aguirre (p. 90), that during the 1968 period, Móricz suggested that the two explorer companions returned to Quito in order to prepare “an official claim for the objects in the  caves, and that they procure a helicopter, invite the president along with a military escort (because the president has his own helicopter),  and then return to the cave and unveil its content.”

Nivello, Hall, Moricz, Pena & Punin 1975. (

Nivello, Hall, Moricz, Pena & Punin 1975. (

Again following Aguirre, during the 1969 military expedition, Móricz and Goyén find human figurines made of solid gold. Goyén makes an off-the-cuff estimation that each figurine weighs between 100 and 400 kilograms (220.46-440.92 lbs). As for the gold veins,  they find the gold in sheets stacked on top of each other as if they were books . Each sheet measures 30 by 40 cm (11.81-15.75 inches) wide and 0.2 mm deep. Goyén estimates that there are 3,000 of such veins. There are, in addition, other isolated veins, perhaps in the hundreds or even thousands. According to Argentine Coronel Carlos María Zavallas, Móricz and Goyén decide to send a few of these gold sheets to Buenos Aires.

Aguirre also confirms that once Goyén returned to Buenos Aires after the expedition, Móricz sent Goyén a letter forewarning him that he was also sending a canister that contained: “salvage material, sand, gold, silver, platinum, iron . . . and within the same material . . . he would find a significant quantity of diamonds . . . a nice piece of gneis, a really pure diamond in which one can find many diamonds of very good quality, and . . . within a flask, 30 diamonds that I took from the sand.”  By the way, Aguirre adds later, Juan Móricz designated Julio Goyén as his rightful heir, including in the inheritance his partial titles to the gold deposits of the Cumbaratza Mining Company and the Mining Company of the South.

But Móricz was also keeping his eye out for gold in other forms. Aguirre relates that early on when Móricz arrived in Ecuador, he was digging on the property of a widow in Quinara for the lost treasure of Atahualpa , and that he had received a letter from the Pope’s Secretary (or Camarlengo) to intervene with the widow and gain permission to dig there.

Atahualpa, Fourteenth Inca, 1 of 14 Portraits of Inca Kings. (Public Domain)

Atahualpa, Fourteenth Inca, 1 of 14 Portraits of Inca Kings. ( Public Domain )

As well as the human figurines mentioned above, Goyén also recounts other discoveries that he and Móricz made during the 1968 expedition:

“there’s a spot that one could call the Sanctum Sanctorum . . . We found a type of semitranslucent sarcophagus. The casket, probably made of quartz, contained the body of an individual. There were also four other bodies—skeletons, really . . . All the bodies considerably shorter than a contemporary adult . . . the first body appeared to be completely dressed in gold . . . Beyond them, there were hundreds of statues and sculptures made of stone and gold, representing all types of creatures from the five continents.”

Julio Goyén ends by claiming that, “We didn’t take anything,” . . . although clearly, according to this investigation a few things were taken out of the caves and sent on to Buenos Aires. This investigation on Juan Móricz concludes by noting the following. According to the DDLA TV investigation in June, 2013, Móricz “was accustomed to travel around with a little bag of emeralds, and the least of these was worth at least $50K. He maintained strongboxes in various global banks.” In other words, Juan Móricz was a very wealthy man. He obviously was successful in his gold mining adventures, and he also encountered gold in its archaeological as well as its geological form.

The conclusions of this investigation will be revealed in Part 3.

Top Image: Left: Father Crespi with a metallic artifact at the church of Maria Auxiliadora ( bilbiotecapleyades) Right: Nivello, Hall, Moricz, Pena & Punin 1975. (

By Heidi Schultz

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Heidi Schultz is hot on the path of lifelong learning. She holds a master's degree from Harvard University in Spanish. Synthesizing those analytical skills with meditation practices, she is in pursuit of the truth. She aspires to take an extended... Read More

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