Spanish silver and gold
Treasure recovered from the Spanish shipwreck of 1554
In the 1970s, silver and gold from a 1554 Spanish shipwreck were discovered off the coast of Texas. The wrecked ships and their precious cargo were part of a Spanish supply chain that mined silver and gold from the Americas to fund a global trade network.
In the late 1400s, explorers like Christopher Columbus began looking for a faster route to Asia, home to the most luxurious and desired trade goods. They ended up in the Americas. News of the perceived wealth to be made there prompted Spain to seek exclusive rights to America’s vast lands. After receiving these rights in 1494 from Pope Alexander VI in the Treaty of Tordesillas, Spain began sending explorers and soldiers called conquistadors with the intent to conquer and colonize the lands they called New Spain.
After subjugating the Aztec and Inca Empires, the Spanish began mining the ample gold and silver in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Over the next 300 years, Spain's wealth grew as they plundered the resources of the Americas, transporting the goods back to Europe to fuel a global economy of trade.
In 1554, four Spanish ships set sail from Mexico to return to Spain carrying cargo worth at least 44 million dollars today. Three of the ships were wrecked in a storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Recovery teams were immediately dispatched to salvage everything they could. Even still, some of the goods remained buried with the ships.
When the wreck was uncovered in the 1970s, gold and silver was found onboard. The recovered silver plancha (disc) and gold bar on display at the Bullock were shaped in Mexico. They were marked to indicate the mine, the purity of the metal, and the tax paid on them. The silver reales (coins) were minted in Mexico City, in the first mint founded in the Americas under Charles I of Spain (1516–1556).
Platoro, Keenon, Purvis Collection of the Texas Historical Commission and the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
Time Period: 1519 - 1689
Exhibit: Becoming Texas
This artifact is currently on view.