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Ancient Funeral Mask Washes Up on Florida Beach, Could Be Missing Link to $4 Billion Sunken Treasure

Researchers have discovered an artifact which is believed to be part of a huge $4 billion haul of treasure hidden somewhere off the Florida coast.

The ancient funeral mask—estimated to be up to ten or twelve thousand years old—washed up on Melbourne Beach in the central region of the state, according to former MIT professor and Army Ranger Mike Torres, who has been searching for the haul for more than a decade, News 6 WKMG reported.

Read more: What's going to happen to the $17 billion worth of treasure found on the "holy grail" of shipwrecks?

Seafarer Exploration Corporation—a company which recently brought Torres on board to help find the missing treasure—say that the haul was aboard a Spanish ship that sunk during a hurricane in 1715 as it was sailing from Cuba to Spain.

The explorers say that finding the lost treasure would be the greatest archaeological discovery in a century, and that the mask could be the missing link in the “debris trail” which could help them locate it.

"There are not many examples of this in the world today," Torres told WKMG, describing the mask as the team's first major discovery in more than a decade.

According to Torres, the metal mask was smelted by an ancient South American civilization long before European contact, adding that it could potentially be one of the earliest known examples of human metalworking, (although the artifact has not been accurately dated yet.)

"They had to, at one point, figure out blast furnaces," he said. "It took serious thought to smelt this."

Tests showed that the mask was made mainly of copper, although it also contains traces of gold, silver and iridium—a material which is found in meteorites. Torres said that the mask—which was probably once gold-plated—may have been taken by the Spanish from a tomb in Peru.

“To contain iridium, it came from a very very important or royal tomb and was likely on its way back to Spain as a gift to royalty,” he said.

Currently, Torres and Seafarer Exploration Corporation are searching for the wreck of the Spanish ship off the Florida coast in a confidential location. If the treasure is discovered, Torres and the company will be allowed to keep 80 percent of it, while the state of Florida would be given the remainder. In this scenario, Torres said the treasure would be kept in collection and preserved for public viewing.

On the possibility of becoming a billionaire, the former professor said: "I'm going after the mission. What happens after that, I'll face when I need to, I suppose.”

GettyImages-178161624 An artifact which washed up on the Florida coast could be part of a haul of missing treasure. iStock

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