Ancient Origins Features in Box Office Hit Film Uncharted
With mystery, treasure and the hunt for answers as its theme, Ancient Origins was a natural choice for the film makers of $400 million (£323 million) grossing feature film Uncharted to use as the website the intrepid treasure hunters used to research the whereabouts of the lost treasure.
In the film, Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is recruited by the daring and ever optimistic treasure hunter Victor "Sully" Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) as the missing element needed in his quest to find a mother lode of gold. This was the supposed treasure trove of Ferdinand Magellan, the famous Portuguese explorer known for being the mind behind the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth. He almost made it too, but was stopped in his tracks in what is now the Philippines at the Battle of Mactan.
But how much of the film is fact, how much is fiction, and how did Ancient Origins get involved?
Screenshot from the 2022 film ‘Uncharted’ featuring the Ancient Origins website. (Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Is the Uncharted Film Based on a True Story?
The main characters in the film are completely fictional and come from the video game franchise by Naughty Dog, but there are elements of history there too. In the film, the chase for the treasure takes the hunters to Spain and the Philippines, where the treasure is eventually thought to be found.
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This tallies with the actual history of Magellan’s most famous (and last) voyage, which both started and ended in Spain, leaving from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 20, 1519, and terminating back in Spain in September 1522. And the voyage did take Magellan to the Philippines, where he was killed by an indigenous chief protecting his island from the incursion. So the trail the treasure hunters follow does tally up with Magellan’s famous journey, and where his life was lost.
Allegorical illustration by Joannes Stradanus depicting Magellan’s legacy to mankind after discovering the Strait of Magellan and having led the first circumnavigation of the world. (Public domain)
Magellan’s attempt to circumnavigate the globe was not the type of straight-out race around the globe that might occur today. His mission was to find the strait that would allow passage past the land mass of the New World (ie. the Americas). But he did have the side task of creating some wealth along the way.
Magellan was sponsored in his quest by the Spanish king, Charles I, who expected a return for his investment. So Magellan had to use trade and other means to bring something of value back to the king. The extra incentive was that Magellan would be in receipt of one twentieth share of the net profits of the voyage.
Drake and Sully tantalizingly close to taking the treasure ships in this screen shot from Uncharted. (Clay Enos / Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Entertainment)
A $5billion Voyage?
The Uncharted film states that the treasure in question was actually worth $5 billion (£3.95 billion) in today’s money. Would Magellan really have amassed this amount of treasure on his journey? Well, explorers back then did more than just sail ships and make maps. They also claimed lands and attempted to force the natives to accept both colonial religion and authority.
This was a time when Europe had a superiority complex and was out to civilize the world by imposing their modern ways and beliefs on all others. And when they visited a new land or island, they tended to leave with a lot more than they had arrived with.
In the plot of the Uncharted film, two ships, carrying the previously stated worth of gold, are eventually found by the protagonists after having followed a treasure map and a series of clues in order to reach their goal.
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The map was created by the “18” (a fictional group of Magellan’s sailors) who supposedly found the two ships of gold and hid them in the first place. This is pure fantasy. There is no mention of this occurring in history. But then, there wouldn’t be would there?
Uncharted is largely based on the 4th Uncharted video game, in which Drake and Sully are racing to find the treasure of the 17th-century real-life pirate Henry Avery (also known as Every). Dubbed the ‘King of the Pirates’, the value of his spoils were massive, but would come nowhere close to $5 billion, and would more likely come in at about $127 million (£103 million) in today’s money, according to The Wrap.
However, Henry Avery did indeed disappear with his treasure, and it has never been recovered as far as we know. Therefore, the game is likely closer to reality than the film in this aspect. One has to conclude that the deal with this film is, unsurprisingly, that it is mostly pure fantasy with a few snippets of history thrown in.
The Discovery of the Strait of Magellan, painted by Álvaro Casanova Zenteno, which was discovered by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. (Public domain)
Uncharted and Ancient Origins Join Forces
When the producer of the Uncharted film, Avi Arad, contacted Ancient Origins about being featured in the movie, of course the management jumped at the chance. Exploration, adventure and finding answers is at the heart of the company, and to be involved with a film of this nature was a great fit.
The end result is just a fleeting moment of Ancient Origins being consulted by Drake as he searches for historical clues to finding the treasure. Did you spot it? If you haven’t seen Uncharted yet, we recommend you do. It’s a rollercoaster ride of action and mystery… and keep an eye out for Ancient Origins cameo role too!
Top image: Image from the poster of Uncharted. Source: Clay Enos / Columbia Picture / Sony Pictures Entertainment
By Gary Manners
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Cormack, L. B. 1994. “Flat Earth or round sphere: misconceptions of the shape of the Earth and the fifteenth-century transformation of the world” in Ecumene, vol. 1, no. 4, 1994, pp. 363–85. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44251730
Domingues, F. C. and Mitchell, M. 21 May. 2022. “Ferdinand Magellan” in Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ferdinand-Magellan
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