Lifestyle & Human Interest

Urban Legend Prompts Mass Search for $20 Billion Treasure


There’s something about buried treasures that tantalizes people across the world. The bigger the potential haul, the more intrigued the would-be finders are — and that certainly has held true for a dedicated crew that has come to be known as the “Temple Twelve.”

In 1987, 12 men and 12 women began the search of a lifetime, going after the “Lemminkäinen Hoard”: a storied mass of gems and artifacts said to have been sealed in a temple cave in Finland circa 987 A.D.

According to an article in the New York Post this week, the ragtag group of treasure hunters initially banded under the leadership of Ior Bock, who claimed he was a descendant of the mythological Finnish hero Lemminkäinen and who said his ancestors had owned the hoard.

He also was a victim of multiple stabbings. According to the Post, in 1999 he was stabbed several times by someone who knew him and was left a quadriplegic.

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In 2010, according to the Daily Mail, he was stabbed to death in his Helsinki apartment, and police arrested two of his personal assistants — young men from India — in connection with the killing.

One of the men eventually was released, and the other was determined not guilty by reason of insanity.

But from 1984 until his death, Bock maintained that somewhere within the cave system in Sipoo, Finland, was a temple full of unspeakable riches. And people have believed him enough to spend their summers searching for it.

Crews can only work on the project during the summer, as icy water fills the area otherwise. About 1.5 million liters of water must be pumped from the cave when they begin every year, according to the Daily Mail, and as the summer comes to a close, the caves fill back up with rainwater.

The excavation crew, such as it is, uses mainly buckets and spades and occasionally more powerful tools. They have no formal training, no expertise in archaeology or related fields, and there is no real evidence that the hoard they’re after even exists.

Over 100 other, more professional treasure hunters have looked for signs of the hoard and have come away empty-handed.

And yet, despite the failed efforts of the Temple Twelve, the search continues. The group currently is made up of individuals from all over the world, and it still boasts two original members from 1987.

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The group has continued its painstaking work for over three decades — and this year, they say they’re getting close to finally unearthing the alleged stash worth an estimated $20 billion, according to the Post, which said the treasure “is thought to include some 50,000 gemstones including rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds.”

Thanks to some donated dynamite, the Temple Twelve believe that sometime between May and September of 2022, they’ll be able to blast through the remaining granite and reach the temple door.

According to 60-year-old historian and author Carl Borgen, who wrote “Temporarily Insane” — a book about the Temple Twelve and their mission — the team can practically taste success.

“I understand that significant progress at the temple has been made and that the crew are feeling especially excited about the months ahead,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.

“There is now talk in the camp of being on the brink of a major breakthrough, which in real terms could be the discovery of the world’s largest and most valuable treasure trove.

Borgen said the Temple Twelve have removed multiple large square granite rocks blocking the cave’s entrance and have cleared tons of smaller rocks and sediment from the cave.

“I spoke to them only last week, and it is now their strong belief that, after more than 34 years of digging, they are now within meters of the temple entrance,” he said.

Perhaps next year we’ll know if the fabled treasure is destined to remain an urban legend.

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