Tumbaga Metal: The Exploration of Spain’s First Treasure Wreck

Years after Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World from 1492 to 1493, huge amounts of gold, silver, and copper were found by Spanish conquistadors. This discovery boosted Spain’s impact on the world economic climate. Not only were large amounts of these three metals essential to Spain from her colonies the country came to be the center of a realm that patronized the rest of the globe, importing as well as exporting products among other countries.

Prior to the center of the 16th century, colonial mints which produced gold and silver coins had actually not yet been built in Mexico or Peru. Hernando Cortes, Spain’s prime conquistador in Mexico, sent what little rare-earth elements could be pillaged and also heated from Aztec and also Tarascan fashion jewelry, idolizers and also other artifacts back to Spain. These items were thawed down into crude bars of gold, silver, and also copper. But there was a problem: the bars never ever made it to Spain.

In the summertime of 1992, a treasure salvage watercraft found off the Western coastline of Grand Bahama Island, identified an exceptionally huge quantity of steel buried in the ocean. When the family members who helped Marex, placed on their diving gear to investigate, they discovered numerous bars of silver and also gold, yet that exploration was just the idea of the iceberg. After getting in touch with Marex head office, over two-hundred crude bars were given the surface from the exact same site.

After investigating the gold as well as silver ingots, put with some copper, archeologists uncovered that they originated from a Spanish ship that sank in 1528, as the result of a typhoon or the ship ran stranded in superficial water. The majority of bars could be identified from markings that had been stamped after being thawed down as extensively, however as rapidly as possible, making use of crude molds several of which were just depressions in the sand.

These bars called “tumbaga” were determined by four engraved information on every one: 1. The letters BV with “~” over the B and “o” over the V, possibly symbolizing Bernardino Vasquez, among Cortés’ fellow conquistadors, that looked after the mix and molding of each bar. 2. The purity of each bar was noted in Roman characters as a percentage of 2400 for 100% pure; 1200 for 50%, 600 for 25%, etc. 3. Identification numbers, beginning with the letter R complied with by Roman numerals. 4. Tax stamp, part of a circular seal whose legend (pieced together) reads CAROLVS QVINTVS IMPERATOR for Charles V, king of Spain and also emperor of the Divine Roman Empire. The stamp probably shows the “King’s 5th”: 20 percent of the prize goes to the King.

The exploration of this collection of bars has excellent historic relevance for the vast, amazing stories of shipwrecked “Spanish prize” such as chests loaded with gold doubloons from the very early colonial Spanish empire. Additionally, it is the oldest treasure which was uncovered in the Atlantic Sea from the Spanish seaboard realm between 1492 to 1820. The prize was initially artifacts that were plundered and heated from Aztec as well as various other pagan native American tribes; the conquistadors were primarily controling the indigenous populace and also not imposed normal mine digging before 1528. The word “tumbaga” stems from a historical paper from a Spanish governor in the Philippine islands from the very early 18th century that used the term, “Metal de tumbaga” to describe a gold-copper alloy used among the natives. The term today also consists of a silver-copper alloy, which comprised the majority of the bars. (See connected web link for The “Tumbaga Saga).