Twenty-three tales of treasures hidden, long-lost, or still lost—from the Lascaux cave paintings to fabled El Dorado.
Though golden troves predominate—led by the treasure chambers beneath the Hindu temple of Padmanabhaswamy, said to contain centuries of precious gifts valued in the multibillion-dollar range—the glittering tally includes cultural prizes too. These include the Rosetta Stone, the Ark of the Covenant, and the sumptuous (and peripatetic) Amber Room that disappeared from Berlin’s City Palace at the end of World War II. With occasional bouts of giddiness likely inspired by all the riches on virtual display (the ancient Jews wandered for 40 years because “they did not have a good satnav, unfortunately”), Honigstein genially describes shipwrecks and other historical calamities, legends, quests, archaeological discoveries, and the treasures themselves with reasonable exactitude. The narrative’s hand-lettered–style typeface (called “Thirsty Rough”) is sometimes printed over dark or multicolored backgrounds, which creates legibility issues, and a few factual or translation errors do creep in (no, Darwin did not claim that humans descended from apes). Also, though Attia’s fanciful cartoon images and reconstructions nicely reflect the author’s light tone, she illustrates the wrong specimen of Archaeopteryx, and her human figures have a certain sameness to them.
There may be some rough edges, but the unusually broad definition of “treasure” may move a few readers off the gold standard. (Nonfiction. 10-13)