There have been books and books written about treasure signs and how to “read” them. The problem with the majority of these books is that they say a specific sign means the same specific thing at all sites. When dealing with the Spanish there are some symbols that do mean the same things at every site but for the purpose of this article I am going to deal with those that don’t. There will be plenty of symbols that will require you to determine what each sign means individually, based on where it’s located and what else is around or with it. Also for the purpose of this article I will refer to everything as a marker, which would include what most people might call a monument.
One of the biggest things that you need to remember when dealing with any treasure sign, and by sign I am referring to a carved symbol or a monument/marker, is that you are not reading the sign, you are INTERPRETING the sign. This is why so many treasures are still out there for us adventurous types to look for and hopefully find. Interpretation leaves a lot of room for mistakes because most of us will interpret things a little differently, just ask a lawyer. Well, maybe not a lawyer, they would probably want to charge you for their opinion of an interpretation.
When you are looking at a Spanish marker you need to know that they intended to give themselves the information they needed to move from that marker to the next point along the trail. A marker can contain only one piece of information or it can have two or more pieces, depending on what they needed to say at that point. The Spanish were very fond of using animals and birds as pointers but they also used things such as sun and moon symbols, shadow signs, boots and hats just to mention a few. Each of these are as important as the other and exactly what they are telling you will depend on the terrain around them and how elaborate the marker is. We all know that if you find a turtle on a Spanish trail then you are definitely dealing with a treasure trail. Turtles are always treasure symbols. They won’t take you to a mine or a camp, only treasure. Remember, we are only talking about the Spanish right now.
Interpreting Spanish markers can sometimes be an art in itself but most of the time the information is obvious as long as you break it down to it’s simplest form. That’s the key, “it’s simplest form”. Let’s say you find an animal head in a gully. The head is leaning back a little so it is pointed up the gully. The simple interpretation is to go up the gully. Now, let’s add one eye to the animal head, let’s say on the right side of it’s face. Now you have two possibilities with this same monument. The first interpretation would be to look where the eye is looking. Depending on how the eye is made, this can be pretty subjective. If the eye is a drill hole then it is easy to determine an exact direction. If the eye is just a depression or bowl then it’s possible you don’t want to go in the direction the eye is looking but instead, you want to go in the direction the head is facing and since the eye is on the right side of the face you want to be looking on the right side of the gully. If there were two eyes on the head/face then this interpretation would be different.
When interpreting signs you have to look at the sign as a verb or action word for lack of a better description. For the most part a marker is telling you what action you need to take, such as look over there or go up there or keep going straight, etc. To be effective in your interpretation you have to break the marker down into its basic parts and then see what each part is telling you.
In the example we had an animal head, the animal head was pointing up hill and the animal head had one eye and the eye was on the right side of the head/face. Broken down into its parts it gives you the information of go this way, uphill and look on the right side. This gives you three critical pieces of information to follow the trail but it was all done with one simple marker that most people that aren’t treasure hunters would not even notice.
The worst thing you can do when looking for signs is to see something that isn’t really there. If you find something you think is a sign you have to be logical about how you got to the sign itself and does it take you to another sign. Can you backtrack from this sign and find something else that logically takes you to it. You are working a treasure trail, there has to be a trail to follow. If you imagine that things are clues then you will be looking for imaginary treasure. I have run into more than one person that sees things that just aren’t there because they aren’t paying attention to the actual trail, they are just looking for things to be a sign.
I know this information is pretty basic but within the constraints of the size of the blog I am trying to keep it short. As the blog progresses I will try to show photos of different Spanish markers and describe how they were interpreted and what they lead to.