Ever wonder what happened to ′forensic geologist′, Scott Wolter, subject of the series, ″America Unearthed″? Well, he′s back! This time on the new History Channel series, ″Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar″. Scott teams up with treasure hunter Barry Clifford for a global search for the lost loot of the Templars. But can this series be as interesting as ″America Unearthed″? Is it too focused on one subject, albeit a fascinating subject, the Knights Templar. Last night the series premiered with two, back-to-back episodes. However, for sake of time, space and sanity, I will review them as one program. The basic premise of the series is to hunt for links between the Order of the Knights Templar and with the brotherhood of pirates whom scoured the high seas in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Scott Wolter travels to Cape Cod and meets with Barry Clifford. Barry shows Scott an ivory carving of Jesus Christ, presumably a crucifix pose, which Barry found in a pirate shipwreck off of Madagascar. Scott is intrigued and the two discuss possible connections between the Knights Templar and pirates. Bot flew versions of the ′Jolly Roger′, flag, based on the Skull and Crossbones. The flag is thought to be first used by a King Roger, himself a member of the Templars, back in the 12th Century. Barry is planning another trip to Madagascar to dive on other wrecks. Scott decides to coordinate with a trip to Jerusalem.
The Knights Templar got their start in the Holy Land, charged with the task of defending Christian pilgrims traveling there. But once arriving in Jerusalem in 1120, the Templars set up a headquarters next to the Temple Mount, current site of the Dome of the Roc, and began digging. King Solomon′s temple was once there and legend has it that the king′s treasure was buried deep under it. Items like the Ark of the Covenant were said to be among that which was concealed. The Templars found something there and suddenly became the wealthiest and most powerful order of knights in Medieval Europe.
Scott tries to access a chamber known as the Well of Souls underneath the Muslim mosque. In 1867, a British archeologist, Captain Charles Warren, is said to have found a secret chamber below the Well of Souls. But when Wolter conducts his search, he finds no evidence or entrance to another chamber. Scott later meets with Israeli archeologist, Adrian Boas, who tells Wolter that the ivory figurine is similar to another found in the city of Acre. Acre was the last stronghold of the Knights Templar until conquered in 1291.
Meanwhile, in Madagascar, Barry Clifford and his team arrive at the Isle of St. Marie, also known as Pirate Island. During the Golden Age of Piracy, freebooters roamed the seven seas, focused mainly in the Caribbean. But once forced out of there, the pirates began operating more in the Indian Ocean. One cove at the Isle of St. Marie is called ′Pirate Bay′, as there are five shipwrecks within 200 yards of shore. Even the beach is loaded with reminders of those heady days. One story is that in the late 18th Century, there had been a wall 10 feet high of Oriental pottery and fine china stacked up along the beach.
In their first dives, Barry′s team finds an artifact which they think may be an Asian carving of Buddha at the site of the wreck of the Fiery Dragon, a vessel captured by the pirate Captain William ′Billy-One-Hand′ Compton. The news is exciting as there is thought to have been a link between warrior Buddhist monks and the Templars. Barry later finds a piece of pottery that appears to have Masonic symbols on it. Again, Templar lore includes the Masonic Order and Freemasonry.
Scott Wolter pokes around Acre buts finds little, other than carvings along tunnel walls beneath the city. Some of the tunnels lead to the harbor. Legend has it that when Acre fell to the Saracens in 1291, the Templars fled, with their treasure, using the tunnels. Scott heads for Portugal, specifically the town of Tomar, center of the Templar universe. On Friday, October 13, 1307, King Phillip of France and the Pope declared the Knights Templars heretics and attempted to arrest them all. But many got away and some fled to Portugal where the king there was grateful of the Templars who repelled the Moors from the country.
Scott locates another ivory figurine identical to the one Barry found. It was from the Templar castle in Tomar, which was built in 1171. Wolter meets with local historian, Manual Joaquim Gandra, who tells Scott that the Templars remained active in Portugal well into the 19th Century. They adopted a new name, the Order of Christ. Many of Portugal′s explorers from the 15th and 16th Century were members. They not only explored the New World but also found sea routes around Africa to the Far East. In a church in Tomar, Scott finds the grave slab for Tristan de Cunha, one of these explorers, who was the first European to set foot on Madagascar!
Back in Madagascar, Barry Clifford and his team are now making dives on the site of the Adventure Galley, the flagship of the pirate, Captain William Kidd. They find some dull but good artifacts, such as a navigation divider and a spoon. Meanwhile, researchers in England inform Barry that the ′Buddha′ carving is not Asian at all, nor is it a Buddha! The artifact is European and is an image of a seraph, a high-ranking Christian angel. The dives continue and the team now makes a huge find. A large brick of solid silver with Masonic symbols etched upon it! All are excited by this discover from Kidd′s ship. But we will have to wait until the next episode for more details.