It’s made of strange metal It’s as thin as a piece of paper. It could be an ancient death mask, thousands of years old. And it’s been found washed up on a Florida beach.
Fox Orlando reports Seafarer Exploration Corporation treasure hunters unearthed the artefact on Melbourne Beach.
It is believed to have formed part of a funerary headpiece, possibly from a pre-Incan civilisation in Peru. So how did the South American artefact end up on a Florida Beach?
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The treasure hunters believe it was seized by Spanish Conquistador tomb raiders, and was part of a cargo of looted objects being carried to Europe.
Seafarer Exploration is hunting the remains of a Spanish treasure ship, the La Conception.
The galleon was part of a treasure fleet wrecked by a hurricane in 1715.
The discovery of the artefact has raised hopes an enormous treasure — which some speculatively value at some $5.5 billion — may lay buried nearby.
It was found using a simple metal detector.
“It was looted from Machu Picchu,” Dr Michael Torres, who found the mask, told FOX 35.
It’s corroded and deformed. Once believed to be gold plated, mainly copper remains. But X-ray analysis reportedly confirmed it contains the rare mineral iridium which most likely came from a meteorite.
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“This is some of the earliest evidence of man’s ability to metal work and to use iridium,” Dr Torres said. “That changes things, and may change the way we perceive ancient Peruvian cultures.”
Dr Torres told ClickOrlando the mask was part of a debris trail his team has been hunting for the past 11 years.
If the treasure is found, under US law Seafarer Corporation gets to keep 80 per cent of the haul.