Earliest source of the legends of the transported Aztec gold

point hunter

Full Member
Feb 1, 2007
West Monroe, Louisiana
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Ace 250, GTI 2500
I agree. Thanks for sharing them. I've never been to the Sups, but have spent some time in the high desert. Having more than a passing interest with the Dutchman, it's nice to see these high quality photos. :thumbsup:

Nov 8, 2004
Primary Interest:
All Treasure Hunting
CJ posted in reference to both of you --->

Turned 63 in February
Sheesh still wet behind the ears kiddies, I have 22 years on you and can still outshoot, out run, out fly, out this and that, heheheheh. Seriously gentleman, I believe that I would enjoy a trip with you kiddies, if ORO would make the coffee. and djujice his speciality.

Don Jose de La Mancha

p.s. On second thought, I would rather have Cyangal


Sr. Member
Jun 16, 2007
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The treasure at Victorio Peak is long gone, whatever the original "depositors" of that treasure-trove was. Almost 15 years ago a guy sent me the time lapse satelite photos of US Army equipment excavating Victorio Peak on an unbelieveable scale.Judging from all the equipment, all the earth that was moved, then back-filled in the whole operation took at least 40 men.The word was that it was a CIA operation(covert) using enlisted men, and the gold was spirited away to the middle east. A treasure-trove used for political ends. Believe it or not.I sent the man back his photos and asked him to kindly forget he knew me.
Highmountain said:
I've been looking for this documentation for 30 years, and frankly, the earliest mention of the parade appeared in treasure-hunting books/articles in the 1930's. This in itself is quite significant, but that's another story.

Unfortunately, there was no mention of such an expedition passing through non-Mexica territory to North America following the demise of Montezuma. The oral traditions of a number of tribes were retrieved by the ethnologists (Mexican and Anglo) in later years, in detail, and nobody seemed to remember such a caravan of enemies passing through their territory and, as usual, demanding to be fed and supplied with additional women and carriers. Other such travels of strangers were remembered in detail (de Vaca, Marcos, Coronado, etc). This complete absence of testimony does not bode well for the legend.

That said, I firmly believe that Chicomoztoc (Place of the Seven Caves) is located in North America and is somehow associated with the Cibola legends. IMHO, the Seven Cities may well be the Seven Caves and the reason we can't identify their location is because they are subsurface. I also feel that these locations are gold-rich - mines and/or storehouses, Victorio Peak possiblty being one of them, leaving six others that we don't know about. Of course, the history of the Seven Locations, pre-Mexica and most likely associated with Quetzalcoatl would be the real treasure here.


Springfield: It doesn't relate precisely to your post, but it does indirectly, Samuel Cozzens, THE MARVELOUS COUNTRY: OR, THREE YEARS IN ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO, THE APACHES' HOME. It was out of print almost a century, then re-published [and is still around used on the web for a cheap price], his descriptions of his 1850s visits with Mangas, Cochise, the Laguna, Acoma and Zuni.

You would probably find his story of the Zuni/Montezuma ceremonies conducted in 1856, interesting even if they don't lead you to any new insights.

I'm less certain than you there weren't traditions among the tribes concerning parties going north. But if there weren't I'd be willing to rationalize a few reasons they mightn't have persisted [or ever existed].

One might be that the area once occupied by the Mogollon, Mimbres, Anasazi etc, wasn't immediately re-occupied following their having vacated the premises. So far as I'm aware nobody knows how long it was before other tribes took the tentative steps into an area where they'd have been snatched up and worked as slaves a short while earlier. Whatever tribes had resettled the area mightn't have had the social organization to remember what they might have later when things were more settled. Or they might have deliberately avoided any columns moving north to avoid being snagged and forced to fetch and carry.

Probably the exceptions would have been the Zuni, Hopi, and Laguna. [The Laguna traditions of their past involve them having been left in the north when the remainder of their tribe left because they were too old, infirm, ill, or were otherwise unable to travel].

Edit: If you're a patient sort you can get the Cozzens book free on-line as a sort of ebook:

http://snipurl.com/26718 [quod_lib_umich_edu]

Author: Cozzens, Samuel Woodworth, 1834-1878.
Title: The marvellous country, or, Three years in Arizona and New Mexico.: Containing an authentic history of this wonderful country and its ancient civilization ... together with a full and complete history of the Apache tribe of Indians .../ By Samuel Woodworth Cozzens. Illustrated by more than one hundred engravings.
Publication Info: Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library
Availability: These pages may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Please go to http://www.umdl.umich.edu/ for more information.

Print source: The marvellous country, or, Three years in Arizona and New Mexico.: Containing an authentic history of this wonderful country and its ancient civilization ... together with a full and complete history of the Apache tribe of Indians .../ By Samuel Woodworth Cozzens. Illustrated by more than one hundred engravings.
Cozzens, Samuel Woodworth, 1834-1878.
Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1876.
Subject terms: Apache Indians
Arizona -- Description and travel
New Mexico -- Description and travel
URL: http://name.umdl.umich.edu/AJA3616.0001.001

[Samuel Cozzens author, born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, 14 April, 1834; died in Thomaston, Georgia, 4 November, 1878. He was a lawyer, and for a time United States district judge of Arizona. His published works include" The Marvellous Country" (Boston, 1876); "The Young Trail-Hunters Series," comprising "The Young Trail-Hunters," "Crossing the Quicksands," and "The Young Silver-Seekers" (1876 et seq.); and "Nobody's Husband" (1878). ~ www.famousamericans.net
Cozzens visited New Mexico and Arizona barely in time to see new US Territories acquired in the Mexican War as they'd never be again. The Apache was more-or-less at peace with the white men. The Texas Confederates hadn't yet campaigned up the Rio Grande, causing Arizona to become a major conduit for men and materials. Gold hadn't yet been discovered in either of the two territories.Cozzens visited Tuscon, Tubac, Sacaton, Mesilla, Acoma, Laguna and Zuni at a time when they were still new from the US perspective. His descriptions of the people, the places and the times are well worth reading again and again. A grizzly bear attacks their mule in the Zuni Mountains. It must have been one of the last opportunities a mule had in New Mexico for such an experience. The book is loaded with that sort of thing. ~ Amazon.com]

Randy Bradford

Sr. Member
Jun 27, 2004
I really wanted to breathe some life into this topic fora number of reasons. Most of you know I'm working on a book on this very topic and for me, understanding the origin and evolution of the Aztec treasure story has been a crucial undertaking. In that respect, I want to share what I've come across both as a means of testing my own theories and learning more about those others have. Keeping in mind also, I'd never reprint anything fro ma site like this without asking permission of the posters, even if the information is largely public domain. My point is, I'm not trying to steal other people's ideas but rather, I want to stimulate my own method of thinking and approach to the topic. this is a fairly old topic, and some of the old posters have come and gone. I could name a few people I'd very much like to hear from and I might contact a few offline rather than risk stepping on toes. Many of you are aware of what I've been working on and have been tremendously supportive. More importantly, getting feedback and alternative perspectives has been enormously beneficial. For that I say in advance thank you for your feedback, your thoughtful replies and your encouragement. There is some "debris" in the thread, but my goal as it stands is to go page by page and address some of the things I feel are relevant and worthy of continued discussion and exploration. Unfortunately, the original poster seems to have moved on so to those interested and knowledgeable I ask you to bear with me. To the original post:

The only surviving eye-witness account of Mexico-area gold and associated topics from the time of the arrival of the Spaniards through early-post-conquest comes from Bernal Diaz del Castillo, so far as I've been able to determine.

He always noted quality of what came into the Spaniard hands from one of the tribes, and he never mentioned anything high-quality until the issue was Aztec gold. He told of being in the presence of a lot of what he described as 'good quality' gold while Montezuma was a prisoner. He gave a vivid account of the abandonment of it before the fight across the causeway, other than the amount they could carry.

The tonnage the Spaniards saw and touched in the palace were never mentioned as having been recovered.

A couple of things here, there were actually other firsthand accounts of the fall of Tenochtitlan. Cortes himself had his letters published detailing many of these events. A great many accounts were also released not long after from both sides of the spectrum. "Broken Spears," though mistranslated provides a look at eh Aztec view point while a multitude of other authors contribute to what is really a substantial amount of written material on the topic spanning nearly 5 centuries. A good reference tool is "Conquistador" by Buddy Levy which lists in it's bibliography 30 first hand accounts of the Spanish Conquest, though not all of these are directly related to the fall of Tenochtitlan.

Bernal Diaz's account is definitely illuminating because it makes clear the vast amount of gold the Spaniards were privy to both before and after the fall of Tenochtitlan. This includes the vast amount of tribute given to the Spaniards to prevent their exploration into the heart of Mexico, treasures they received from vassals and enemies of the Aztec and the great treasures found in the capital city itself. There are a number of good English translations of this book and for people that wish to get to the point there are a number of broad histories of the Conquest that are worthwhile as well. One of my personal favorites is "Cortes" by Richard Lee Marks which is a thoroughly engaging historical book. Well researched and detailed, it still reads smoothly like a novel. Highly recommended. It lacks the encyclopedic detail of Hugh Thomas' epic tome, but makes up for it in it's approach-ability and ease of reading.

One of the few things about Montezuma's treasure that seems beyond dispute is that there was a treasure. We know the Aztec had gold, silver, jade, turquoise, pearls, precious stones. We know the Spanish found these in astonishing quantity. We know the Spanish found the royal treasure of Montezuma's father and promptly melted it down into ingots that could be easily carried. they were small, crude bars designed to be carried. We know that much of this treasure was abandoned or lost when the Spaniards fled Tenochtitlan following Noche Triste and we know that the Spaniards were unable to find much of this following their conquering of Tenochtitlan some 13 months later.

Somewhere back there a legend began of Montezuma instructing the Aztecs to hide their gold began and persisted through the centuries. The story of four columns of 1000 people each carrying the hoards north and hiding it has cropped up time-to-time as frequently as the places it's thought to be located.

Today it's still out there being theorized in the same general locations it always was, though Utah's probably hottest at the moment. But I've never been able to find out when and where that story began, nor even where the story of Montezuma's instructions for the Aztecs to hide it got started.

I agree that one of the most frustrating parts about the Montezuma Treasure is the lack of clarity on how the story originated. For years I've heard about the treasure being moved "two moons North" by a large party of Aztecs, everything from several hundred to 8,000. Obviously, the larger the party the harder it becomes to believe. the logistics would suggest smaller means more likely. Knowing where that story originates is important and still a detail that eludes me. At the end of this thread I'm going to provide a few critical pieces of information about how I beleive the story MAY have developped based on available materials.

A few things to keep in mind...500 years ago the Southwest US and Central Mexico regions were different. they were likely more fertile and less desert based on what we know about climate and changes since the Spanish Conquest that are documented. But even in a very fertile land, the notion of thousands of people on the move stretches the limits of believability. Also keep in mind that the Aztecs had established trade routes all the way to central Arizona, so the road North would likely have followed an established path that would have put them in direct line with shelter, water, food and friendly tribes. the real question is whether or not the party could sustain themselves. Perhaps the biggest strike against the story is the lack of noteworthy oral tradition describing such a party. It could be stories such as these existed at one time but have been lost or changed, it could be the stories exist but haven't been shared, or it could be the stories simply aren't there. As the Spanish say, quien sabe?

One of the arguments the legend is false has always rested on the premise that 4000 people knowing a secret makes it a lead-pipe cinch it will be told and remembered. The fact the locations haven't shown themselves in tribal legends somewhere almost certainly means, either the gold didn't come north, or the people carrying it didn't live long enough after having done so to spread the tale of the journey and the whereabouts of the hiding places.

Judging from the various scratchings on rocks and other evidence found in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, I'm inclined to think hoards did come north. The logistics for those treks must have been a nightmare for each of the columns and they must have manifested themselves in countless vessels for carrying food and water to keep the carriers alive long enough to reach the destination.

The Aztecs were nothing if not a bloodthirsty lot. It's easy enough to imagine a final bloodbath to make certain none who were lowly enough to be carriers survived to carry tales of the location. But who'd be there to do the work of burying them and all those vessels they used to carry their own food? What's less believable is that those who probably killed them dirtied their hands with anything but human blood.

So after stacking assertion atop assertion it seems to me anyone searching for Aztec gold might be well served by looking for the remains of a thousand large vessels, besides drawings on cliff-walls. That, and the surrounding soil dominated by thousands of human teeth. Probably the rest of the bone fragments are gone, but teeth last a surprisingly long while.

Human teeth and possibly metal pots. Those two terrain features ought to assure a third is somewhere nearby.

Edit: Diaz also tells of what the enemies of the Aztecs had to say about where they came from and when they arrived in the Valley of Mexico. Not more than a century before the arrival of the Spaniards, migrated in from somewhere in the north by the thousands and tens of thousands from somewhere called Aztl'an [Aztl'an mightn't be Diaz]. Generally accepted among linguists these days to mean, either, place of 7 caves, or 'whiteness' place [because of the accented last syllable, changing it from the earlier, 'place of herons' interpretation]. But judging from the fact the Aztecs had a lot of good quality gold and their neighbors evidently didn't, it might be safe to assume there was a lot in their place of origin in the north. In fact, that might well be one of the places they returned it to.

Just a few thoughts I have on what I feel is a significant part of the written record of the legends we currently strive to understand. What I find are some of the earliest mentions of an Aztec treasure in the Southwest and I believe represent parts of the evolution of history into fiction into folklore:

•William H. Prescott: “History of the Conquest of Mexico” 1843 Prescott's book was the first of it's kind to really bring the Spanish Conquest to the awareness of the American masses. While it's credibility and historical neutrality have come into question in he past few decades, there is little doubt it was perhaps one of the most influential books of it's kind and inspired generations of thrill seekers and history buffs alike. Published on the cusp of transcontinental travel and the broader reach of published work, Prescott's book served to propel history into the minds of a larger audience than was ever before possible.

•Rudolph Leonhart “The Treasure of Montezuma” 1888:
I have this in PDF format though I must confess I have not read it. the prose is of a much clunkier style than we are accustomed to these days. Wordy and dry I think it still managed ot capture the imaginations of it's readers in a bygone era. It is my firm belief that this work of fiction laid the groundwork for the enduring legacy of treasure and that it was likely incorporated into enduring legends of the region about the treasure. In this respect, i believe the stories endured while Leonhart's book acted as a catalyst by feeding the dreams and imaginations of the readers. This was in the waning days of the Westward expansion and the veneer of the cultural Southwest was still solidifying.

•Adolf F. Bandelier “The “Montezuma” of the Pueblos 1892 (American Anthropologist)
Several articles came out in this time period from academic journals outlining the folklore history of the Southwest. Particularly prominent were articles about the Pueblo Montezuma which I believe by now was already deeply emeshed with legends of the Aztec Montezuma. These stories become intertwined with the folklore of treasure and are viewed by many as further proof of the Aztec treasure story. Interestingly, many of the tribes that would later be attributed to Montezuma treasure legends are also mentioned here: Pueblo, Yaqui, Paiute, Pima, Papago

•J. Frank Dobie: 1924 / 1930 "Treasure tales of Texas" and "Coronado's Children"
Dobie in his pre-Depression books again reached large readerships and continue to be loved and published to this day. He is the first to focus on the Montezuma Treasure in a direct fashion though his loyalty to folklore over history is both pronounced and stated openly. His goal is to share stories with no thought to their legitimacy. Dobie outlines multiple locations demonstrating that even in it's infancy, the Montezuma Treasure was an aspect of the Southwest Culture that was widely dispersed, controversial, and disputed by states competing to have their story heard and believed. Dobie describes Texas sites in a familiar way suggesting these stories were more a part of the local awareness and consciousness nearly a hundred years ago than they are now. He speaks of New Mexico, Mexico and Texas directly and refers back to the Pecos Montezuma without directly suggesting the blending of mythology to achieve a current story line.

At any rate, pertaining to the "earliest source legends," I think these materials more than any contributed to the birth of the Montezuma treasure legend. More later and i absolutely invite your feedback...


Bronze Member
May 16, 2010
That comment about the gold being melted into bars, is something I missed. That is also important information. It does make sense. It makes the gold much easier to ship, as opposed to beautiful, drawn gold jewelry.

However, it does bring up logistical questions. I can see the Spanish probably carried gold processing equipment with them, since gold was their mission. However, some fraction of 700,000 pesos of gold to be processed? That would be a major task for a factory, not to mention soldiers in a house surrounded by hostile forces.

For your information, gold melts at 1948 degrees F., hotter than needed to make Portland type cement. Mexico allegedly did have coal in those days, and charcoal is easy to make. Cottage industry charcoal is made by burying large sticks, and setting it on fire while covered with dirt. But, I have seen my wife reach into the fireplace and pull out a red hot stick, and toss it in a bucket of water. When it is dried in the sun, it is perfect charcoal, and she cooks fish with it.

As far as the climate change since those days, I believe it. Where I am are a couple ranches whose names in the Indian language in the 19th Century meant flowery fertile places. Now, these ranches are rocks and cactus.

I have found evidence that the hills here had more then a meter deep of black dirt. Now, marble dust and rocks.

In the 50's, they had trains going out to rural areas to bring food grains back to Mexico City. I feel it happened as in the Appalachians, that they planted up and down hill and all the good dirt was washed away, which turned the area into a rocky desert.

In truth, my wife saw part of it happen. In 1955, major rains, unlike anything in memory came, and she saw the last of the black dirt washed away in a few days. Coincidentally or not, that was about the time they discontinued the trains.

My wife's uncle, who died in his 90's several years ago, was foreman of the crew which loaded the grain cars at the local depot.

But, there is another factor as well. I know a small village 90 minutes away, up in the mountain peaks. The people run around, cutting wood to burn for cooking. The whole mountain side is nearly bare. Ground which has tree cover is totally different for climate than bare earth and rocks.

Back in high school, I read about areas of Canada, where the trappers wiped out the beaver. The hills had been covered with small lakes; and trees and wildlife abounded. When the beaver were gone, the rain ran down the mountains ripping up everything. When this happened over a large area, the entire climate changed, for the worse. Less rain; no animals, not much plant or tree life.

In modern times, when they stocked those areas with beaver, they began quickly to return to their historical glory of growth, rain; and wild animals.

Based on what I see where I am, I think that happened to a large area of Mexico. In the early days of the US, it took only one or two generations to permanently wipe out the Appalachians. Much of Mexico has been inhabited for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.

On the topic of teeth lasting a long time, the cousin I talk about, among many other skills, is the family grave-digger. When they dig to bury a body in the local cemetery, they encounter up to 5 or 6 previous bodies down there. He said the oldest teeth are like new. Bodies buried in the last 20 years are almost totally rotted. I thought, "Coca-cola." :D

A few years ago, they were digging to build a new room on a house, and encountered 6, I think it was, bodies, with ceremonial cups. Since the church was here in 1620, my guess is those bodies were buried before that date. He said the teeth were like new.

The 'legends' of the treasure in my village came down by oral tradition over the centuries, heh, heh.

Last edited:


Bronze Member
May 16, 2010
A reminder that when the Aztecs came to the Valley of Mexico, they first stopped for around 20 years in Tula, N.E. of Tenochititlan. Aztec history is very clear about this.


Silver Member
Nov 17, 2010
SouthWestern USA
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Nox 800, Etrac, F75, AT Pro. Last two for sale.
Primary Interest:
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The use of a helicopter is over kill. While getting the right vantage point is key in my humble opinion. I see disadvantages in using a helicopter. Guess it would be a great way to search a place like a mountain if it is legal to do so. I would try running a IR camera at dusk looking for old trails. Its really about the toys.


Bronze Member
May 16, 2010
Is it permitted to make a personal comment? If not, please delete this comment.

I admire Randy Bradford's scholarly approach to the treasure; its legends, and history. He has an impressive library, one I can only fantasize over. And, he seems to be able to remember well all that he reads.

Of course, I am here, and he is not. So, we are not ever going to agree. :D :D

Randy Bradford

Sr. Member
Jun 27, 2004
I appreciate the feedback and the compliment. My approach has never been to "prove" anything, but present the information I find and let people draw their own conclusions. I do read a lot, and mercifully, I do remember plenty because this is a topic that's constantly on my mind. I only wish my desire to put to paper and pen whats inside was as consistant. I think when my book is done, it will generate more questions than it answers, and that's fine. I don't know it all...and I don't consider myself an expert. I do consider myself a guy that has been fortunate in my access to research and a reasonable capacity to look t things from multiple vantage points.

I've never disagreed with many people, and I'd never say you were wrong piegrande. More importantly, the way I approach things if you'rewrong or not makes no difference. Truth be told, one of the benfits to my approach is I never have to listen to someone while thinking in the back of my mind "he's wrong, here's why." Makes it easier to listen and incorporate things that make sense. I really work hard to not let my opinions prevent me from listening to and being open to alternatives. A body of knowledge is never complete, there is always more to learn on a given subject. I try not to let my beliefs filter important bits of information that might challenge my paradigms.

You learn lot less trying to prove other's wrong than simply trying to build a position. I've also been fortunate to be around when the Internet has really opened doors to researchers. Treasurenet has been a constant source of information...but more importantly...a constant source of relationships for nearly 20 years. The Internet, email, Interlibrary loan and the increasing availability and ease of use of old books now scanned has been enormously beneficial.

Thanks agian, people on here are important to me and a little bit of encouragment and support does wonders for my motivation...

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