Archive for February 22nd, 2008

The Amber Room? For reals?

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

It seems like a long shot to me, but some German treasure hunters think they’ve found the fabled Amber Room in a cavern 65 feet underground.

The discovery of an estimated two tonnes of gold was made at the weekend when electromagnetic pulse measurements located the man-made cavern 20 meters underground near the village of Deutschneudorf on Germany’s border with the Czech Republic.

The team, which used heavy digging equipment, hasn’t been inside the room but analysis of the electromagnetic test has led it to believe that the cavern contains gold.

“I’m well over 90 percent sure we have found the Amber Room,” the mayor of Deutschneudorf, Heinz-Peter Haustein, who led the search, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The chamber is likely to be part of a labyrinth of storage rooms that the Nazis built here. I knew it was in this area. I just never knew exactly where.”

The Amber Room was made of 55 square meters of etched and mosaic amber panels backed with gold. A gift from Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I to Czar Peter the Great in 1716, it lived in the Catherine Palace until Nazi troops stripped it and shipped it back to East Prussia where it was on display in Königsberg Castle until 1945.

Then it disappeared. Nobody’s sure what happened. Königsberg was hit pretty hard at the end of the war, and the amber was already brittle before it was stripped from the walls in Leningrad.

Then there are theories about it having been packed into a submarine that sank in the Baltic, or stashed in a mineshaft, or hidden in underground cave networks along with piles of other Nazi loot. Hence our current treasure-hunting friends.

Meanwhile, back in St. Petersburg, the Amber Room has been painstakingly recreated. It took Russian artisans and historians, $8 million in German corporate funds, 25 years and 6 tons of amber to do it, but do it they did. Here’s a wall from the recreated Amber Room that gives a sense of its lavish beauty and detail:

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