A team of treasure hunters think they are ‘on the brink’ of unearthing a hoard worth up to £15 billion that has been hidden in a cave temple in Finland for centuries.
The group dubbed the ‘Temple Twelve’ began searching in 1987 with a famous ‘mystic’ who shared its location before his death, and have dedicated their summers to finding the treasure ever since in the labyrinthine cave complex near Helsinki.
After 34 years of work, the Temple Twelve now believe they are a matter of months from making a breakthrough, but will have to endure a long winter before they can once again access the caves that fill with freezing rainwater each year.
The group hopes that if it is found, the ‘Lemminkäinen Hoard’ (as it is known) could represent the largest and most valuable trove ever to be discovered.
While there has been no evidence of its existence, the hoard is storied to contain over 50,000 gemstones including rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds, and at least 1,000 artefacts dating back thousands of years.
Several 18-carat gold life-size statues in human form are also supposedly all lying within the massive Sibbosberg cave system, found 20 miles east of Finland’s capital.
Pictured: A team of treasure hunters work to excavate a cave system in Finland. The group believe they are now ‘on the brink’ of unearthing a hoard worth up to £15 billion
The treasure trove, believed to be worth up to £15 billion, is supposedly all lying untouched within the massive Sibbosberg cave system, found 20 miles east of Finland’s capital, Helsinki. Pictured: One of the excavators inside the cave system
The hoard, said to be entombed in an underground temple in Sipoo, has remained elusive for three decades despite countless official explorations and the efforts of more than 100 professional prospectors from across the world.
Within the temple it is said there will be a spiralling hallway with smaller rooms jetting off it, which should store the treasure collected over generations during the heathen culture of ancient Finland.
It is believed that the last time the hoard was added to was as long ago as 987AD when the hall was filled and the entrance sealed and hidden away.
Since learning of the treasure’s supposed location, The ‘Temple Twelve’ have spent six hours a day, seven days a week digging through the caves.
But now, after 34 years of searching and more than 100,000 hours of painstaking excavation, the group of 12 ‘penniless’ friends and amateur excavators believe they are only metres away from the treasure, and expect to get into the cave next summer when they can access the cave system again.
The treasure’s alleged existence first emerged in 1984, when local landowner and ‘mystic’ Ior Bock claimed that his family were direct descendants of Lemminkäinen, a prominent figure in Finnish pagan mythology.
The cave system itself is known by some as the Temple of Lemminkäinen.
According to Bock, who was murdered by a personal assistant in 2010, the chamber on his large estate was sealed up with huge stone slabs in the 10th-Century to protect the treasures within from invading armies.
His family had been keepers of the secret and ‘guardians of the cave’ since then, Bock claimed, prompting him to reveal the temple’s existence to ensure its untold story would not die with him, beginning the ‘Bock Saga’.
Historian and author Carl Borgen, 60, the world’s leading authority on the Lemminkäinen Hoard, has chronicled the lives of the Temple Twelve and their bounty in his book ‘Temporarily Insane’.
Pictured: A photograph showing the cave system, empty of water, with the ‘Temple Twelve’ digging at the far end of the passageway in the hope of finding the treasure
The treasure’s alleged existence first emerged in 1984, when local landowner and famous mystic’ Ior Bock (pictured in historical photographs) claimed that his family were direct descendants of Lemminkäinen, a prominent figure in Finnish pagan mythology
Pictured: A map showing the cave system hidden in Finland’s Sibbo region, near Helsinki. The map also details the cave system itself, its entrance and the water
The original team of 24 ‘like-minded strangers’ – 12 men and 12 women – joined forces with Bock in 1987 to become the site’s first and only permanent, self-funded excavation team.
Made up of members from Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, Russia, America and Germany, the team is a truly international group with zero archaeological experience.
Remarkably, 34 years after excavations first commenced, two of the original 24 remain despite at least half of the group having died or retired.
No hard evidence of the hoard has yet been found, but the Temple Twelve believe they have the tenacity to locate and remove the giant granite slabs from the temple door, and to finally get their hands on what’s hidden inside.
Using rudimentary tools including spades and buckets, the group has so far removed several four-tonne blocks from the cave’s entrance and have excavated around 400 tonnes of sediment below it.
Pictured left: The cave as seen when it is filled with water. Pictured right: The cave as seen with the ‘Temple Twelve’ having pumped out much of the water from the system
Pictured: A photograph of the Temple Twelve taking a break on a road near the cave. The original team of 24 ‘like-minded strangers’ – 12 men and 12 women – joined forces with Bock in 1987. Of the original 24, just two remain after 34 years
The massive treasure hoard is supposedly all lying within the massive Sibbosberg cave system, found 20 miles east of Finland’s capital, Helsinki. Pictured: A map showing the cave’s location
The remaining sediment, and the granite slabs covering the temple door, could be removed within a matter of months thanks to a recent ‘donation’ of dynamite, according to Borgen. But they will have to wait.
Finnish weather means the digging season is confined to the summer months before the cave starts filling with freezing rainwater.
The group has to pump out more than 1.5million litres of water annually at the start of every season.
When digging resumes next year, the team is confident they will get into the cave entrance between May and September next year.
‘I understand that significant progress at the temple has been made and that the crew are feeling especially excited about the months ahead,’ Mr Boren said speaking from his home in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Pictured: A barefoot man digs inside the Lemminkäinen Temple in Finland
Pictured: A painting of Lemminkäinen, a prominent figure in Finnish pagan mythology, at the River of Tuonela, 1920. Lemminkäinen is one of the heroes of the Kalevala – a collection of epic poetry – where his character is made up of several separate heroes of oral poetry
‘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.
‘So far, the Temple Twelve, as they have become known, have been able to remove several huge square granite rocks blocking the entrance to the cave, and have cleared the cave of hundreds of tonnes of smaller rocks and sediment.
‘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 metres of the temple entrance.’