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The Inca artifact found in Florida.

Ancient Inca Artifact Discovered in Florida Points to a $4 billion Sunken Treasure Hoard

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In a confidential location at sea near Melbourne, Florida, explorers and treasure recovery experts have found an ancient Peruvian funeral mask which they think is evidence of a sunken treasure worth a cool $4 billion.

The treasure allegedly went down with a Spanish ship sailing from Cuba to Spain in 1715 was wrecked in a hurricane and researchers working with Seafarer Exploration Corporation are calling their potential find, “the richest archaeological discovery of our time.”

Inca Artifact from Funerary Treasures

A News 6 video featured in a report on shows reporter James Sparvero interviewing Army Ranger and MIT adjunct professor Dr. Mike Torres - who has searched for this particular shipwreck for the past 11 years. Following what he calls the “debris trail”, professor Torres claims the ancient mask was found washed up on a beach and is “Inca”, originating in Peru.

Torres also thinks the Spanish stole the mask from a “very special” tomb because while it’s mainly made from copper, gold, and silver, it also includes iridium, which the report claims came from a meteorite. Torres told Florida Today, “They had to, at one point, figure out blast furnaces,” he said, “It took serious thought to smelt this.” Torres believes the mask could be one of the earliest known examples of human metal working.

A Messy Mix

You are immediately forgiven if you have watched the News 6 video and are in a state of utter confusion, as was I. Sparvero’s introductory scene in the video confidently states the mask is “possibly 10 or 12,000 years old.” But in reality, the Inca formed in the Cusco area of modern Peru in the mid-12th century AD. Going with professor Torres’ suggestion that it’s an ‘Inca funerary mask’ it was forged no longer than 800 years ago, but other archaeologists claim “a native civilization smelted the mask possibly thousands of years BC” according to an article in Florida Today.

This story, the way it was originally presented, then cut and pasted and retold across the media, really is a messy fictional storm almost void of facts altogether. But the confusion only starts there.

While Torres says the mask is Inca, right after that he says “it might be the first evidence of smelting” in South America. But that was thousands of years before the Inca formed. Searching for hard facts, clarity can be found in an excellent research paper, Metallurgy in Southern South America, written by three of the world’s leading scholars on ancient metallurgy; Colin A. Cooke, Mark B Abbott, and Alexander P. Wolfe. The scientists state, “The earliest evidence to date for smelting activity in southern South America comes in the form of copper slag from the Wankarani site in the highlands of Bolivia dating between 900 and 700 BCE (Ponce 1970).”

Representation of people from the Wankarani culture who lived in the highlands of what is now Bolivia. (Pablo Villagomez)

Representation of people from the Wankarani culture who lived in the highlands of what is now Bolivia. (Pablo Villagomez)

Accepting the work of these three experts, the very oldest the mask can be is 2,500 years old. But the symbology does not match the iconography of any South American cultures at this time and is classically Inca. All things considered, the mask was probably made between six and eight hundred years ago.

Another really important aspect that must be considered is an ‘omission’ or ‘miss-truth’ in the report, in the claim that the inclusion of iridium in the mask must have come from a meteorite - this is simply not true. David A. Scott from the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, wrote a seminal paper in 1980 called Ancient Platinum Technology in South America Its use by the Indians in Pre-Hispanic Times. One of his key findings, which is known by all metallurgists, is that the occurrence of iridium as ‘small inclusions’ in ancient gold work “were not deliberate alloying additions, but are frequently found in alluvial deposits associated with gold.”

Scott concluded that gold found in ‘placer deposits’ gives rise to “the unintentional presence of platinoid inclusions, particularly of the iridium-osmium-ruthenium group.” Thus, the inclusion of iridium in the Inca mask found in Florida is accidental, and the Inca metal workers knew nothing about its presence. Therefore, the whole idea that the mask must have come from a “special Inca tomb” is based on an assumption.

Example of a gold Inca mask. (Guacamoliest/CC BY NC SA 2.0)

Example of a gold Inca mask. (Guacamoliest/CC BY NC SA 2.0)

All this aside, and returning to the ‘Inca’ Artifact…

The way it works in Florida is that if Torres and Seafarer Exploration Corp. actually find the shipwreck and recover its treasure they retain 80% of the value, while the state of Florida keep the remaining 20%. Torres has already stated that it would be “kept in a collection and preserved for public viewing” and when asked if he is about to become a billionaire he stroked his beard and said “maybe.”

Top Image: The Inca artifact found in Florida. Source: ClickOrlando Screenshot

By Ashley Cowie



Copper plated with Gold.

Question. Electroplated? Or Gold leaf? next question. How long does it take for copper to corrode away to zip in seawater?

Putting aside all the garbage in the interview and sensationalist reporting by news people too lazy to do some basic research, this artifact and others were stolen by the Spanish. They were not “presents” from their owners to a king they knew nothing about. The one thing I can agree with is this is probably a funeral mask. Its archeological significance has probably been lost because we may never know whose funeral mask it was. However, it did not belong to the Spanish and certainly does not belong Seafarer or the people of Florida.  The mask and any other cultural artifacts are stolen property and should be returned, if not to the Inca, then to the people of Peru. 




But 10,000 to 13,000 years old ?????, these "archaeologists" suggesting that are the lunatic fringe in archaeology

This "discovery" is totally fishy. Seafarer is notorious for fraud. Seafarer also claims that Dr. Torres won a purple heart, but there is no record of this in the national archives. You expect us to believe that after years of searching he just happens to walk along the beach with a metal detector and "find" this priceless artifact. Ok Indian Jones...

Yes but if you are a lifelong student of archaeology you will know that if it isn't recovered by a university or other government body then the bad guy's will be all over it like flies on poo and it will be smelted for its gold value and used for financing someone's regime


ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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