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Archaeological Discovery Ventures

Archaeological Discovery Ventures, LLC
Archaeological and Shipwreck Research and Location, Treasure Salvage, and Historical Preservation.

Past Projects:
Ambrosia Shipwreck

Mussolini Diamonds

Cortes Shipwreck
Upcoming Projects:

Treasures of the Americas Exhibit

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Just a Few Images
from the Cortes Shipwreck


Diver Moving Treasure Chest
Diver Raising a Treasure Chest



Aztec Ceremonial Jade Mask
Ceremonial Aztec
Jade Mask



Ceremonial Aztec Gold Mask
Ceremonial Aztec
Gold Mask



Rose Quartz Crystal Skull
Rose Quartz Crystal Skull
Once Owned by Montezuma



Emerald Cross
Emerald and Gold Cross



Hernan Cortes Signet Ring
The Personal Signet Ring of
Conquistador Hernan Cortes
Proving the Shipwreck's
Identity and Provenance

Limited Edition Replicas of the
Cortes Ring Are Available



Isabella Emerald 964-carat Emerald of Judgement
Isabella Emerald


The Hernan Cortes Shipwreck at
Archaeological Discovery Ventures

Cortes And The Isabella Emerald

In The Year 1519…
Empreror MontezumaThere have been many cataclysmic events of tremendous importance in the history of Man. Undeniably, one such event occurred 500 years ago. In the year 1519, two Civilizations collided, the Old World and the New World. One survived. One vanished. An event that changed the world forever. This is the story of the true birth of the Americas.

500 years ago “The Americas” was already a world of advanced civilization with powerful warring empires reaching back thousands of years. It was a world of soaring pyramids and mystic religions that worshipped the Gods of Creation, the stars and galaxies, and a panorama of awesome Gods. It was a world ruled by the Emperor Montezuma, a Living God who ruled over an Empire of over 30 million people. The Old World never even knew such a Civilization existed!

A prophecy of this civilization, made 2000 years earlier, was that the great God Quetzalcoatl, a white man with a red beard, would return from the East on floating islands to reclaim his empire in the Year Reed One. As if to fulfill the prophecy, in 1519, the Year of Reed One, Conquistador Hernan Cortes, a white man with a red beard, landed from the East aboard massive ships onto the shores of the magnificent Aztec Empire. Unimaginably, to prevent his army of only 500 men from retreating, he burned his ships. They now had no choice, but to journey into an absolutely unknown world.  They discovered the fantastic City of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).  Montezuma was perceived by his people as a living God.  The Aztecs believed the 2000 year-old prophecy was coming true before their very eyes and that Cortes was the true reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. 

This historical meeting at the crossing of the bridge by Montezuma as he went to meet Cortes was not just the meeting of two men, but the meeting of two Gods; two alien civilizations. It was a bringing together of two worlds, the Old and the New.  As Cortes gazed upon the city, he stated that it was as if God had carried out two separate Creations: one in the West and one in the East.  Montezuma presented Cortes with a wealth beyond imagination, a great treasure of gold and emeralds including the large mystical Emerald of Judgment.

Isabella Emerald 964-carat Emerald of Judgement
964-Carat Isabella Emerald
The Original Emerald of Judgement

Montezuma, called it the Stone of Judgment, the most powerful  instrument of the Aztec Culture, destined to be reclaimed by his God Quetzalcoatl upon his return in the year Reed One as proclaimed in their Aztec Codex.  It was witnessed in the Hall of Judgment by Cortes as Montezuma stood in his Court in judgment of others.  The Emerald of Judgment would communicate by radiating with an inexplicable luminescence from on top of a crystal skull. 

Cortes described it in a letter to Queen Isabella as “a mystifying powerful emerald crystal so large that it would fill the palm of her hand".  Cortes proclaimed that such a powerful instrument should only be in the hands of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, and his Queen Isabella. Cortes felt he could entice the Queen with this magical emerald and treasure to bestow on him the title of Governor of New Spain and finance him with ships, men and supplies to conquer the rest of the new world.  To his disappointment, Charles V was bankrupt from financing wars against England, France, and Italy. Queen Isabella would only covet the emerald, to become her  namesake, as Cortes was persuaded to gift it to his betrothed Dona Juana De Zuniga in exchange for a dowry large enough to fulfill his destiny to continue to conquer the new world.  History shows that Queen Isabella never forgave Cortes.  These events changed the name of the Emerald of Judgment to the Isabella Emerald.

Shipwreck by FireIn The Year 1757…
Over the years the Aztec Empire totally vanished and the Spanish Empire grew in its place. It became one of tremendous wealth and power. The descendants of Cortes became immensely wealthy.  In 1757, the Zuniga/Cortes descendants, empowered with great wealth, requested from King of Spain Ferdinand VI, to bestow on them larger land grants in the new world.  A courier bearing the signet ring of Cortes arrived in Cartagena to escort a treasure trove including the mystical Isabella Emerald, a hundred chests of emeralds, Gold and Jade Death Masks of the Aztec Emperors, Gold Idols, mysterious crystal skulls and instruments of human sacrifice, as a persuasive gift in exchange for larger territories. This ship with its many secret treasures and contraband was lost at sea.

In The Year 1992…
In 1992 a Zuniga/Cortes descendant approached Dr. Benilous, President of Archaeological Discovery Ventures and credited with the discovery of the oldest shipwreck in the Western hemisphere (1554), with a request to locate the shipwreck with the legendary, mystical Isabella Emerald and its accompanied secret treasures.  The information was too vague to assemble a typical salvage operation. The ship was mysteriously lost at sea and witnessed by another ship's captain to have caught on fire and burnt somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. The ship's entry was recorded in the captain's log as being so many hours and minutes from the last time they had seen land.  He noted "...yet another ship lost mysteriously in these strange waters."

Dr. Benilous, familiar with the typical Spaniards' navigational routes, but not knowing how fast the ship was sailing, approached a Remote Viewer, whom he had excellent results with in past projects.  The psychic encouraged Dr. Benilous to also collaborate with another Remote Viewer.  Creating a plastic overlay map of the suspected area, ADVL shipped it to both psychics for their input.  When the maps came back, both psychics had independently identified an area of less than 5 centimeters apart.  The search started with the typical salvage equipment: proton magnetometer, side-scan sonar, and bottom profiler.  The results were incredible, within a 5-mile radius seven ships were discovered. Two were immediately eliminated when identified as being of Spanish Colonial period (1550s). As a note of reference, ADVL plans to begin exploration of these previously uncharted wrecks as scheduling and funding permits.

Dr. Benilous called on one of his psychics to come aboard ADVL's mothership. When he was brought into the area, the psychic called out that there was something there of incredible power and force that was like a giant beacon calling out to him.  He pinpointed, with unimaginable accuracy, a position where Dr. Benilous later discovered the only known 6-sided Star Rose Quartz Crystal Skull next to a silver bar stamped with the date 1757.  In a matter of months, ADVL had uncovered the 964-carat Isabella Emerald, the world's largest emerald crystal, and seven more crystal skulls. Since 1992, ADVL has continued to recover thousands of carats of cut and uncut emeralds and hundreds of pieces of treasure including a hidden contraband of Mayan and Aztec jade masks and gold artifacts in the unprotected International waters of the Caribbean. 

Dr. Benilous's love of history has ensured his struggle to keep the treasure intact. ADVL has never taken on any investors and had supplemented  the cost of recovery through the sale of cut and uncut emeralds.  They are now prepared to share with the world the Lost Treasures of Cortes in an upcoming exhibit entitled The Treasures of the Americas.  

The Treasure of Cortes is one of the most important Treasures ever discovered. It is a time capsule that preserves the material symbolic of the moment of first contact between two Civilizations, when Hernan Cortes met Emperor Montezuma and entered the great Capital of the Aztec Empire.

Discovery of the Cortes Shipwreck

OnApril 5, 1993 the Associated Press announced that the treasure explorer, Victor Benilous, President of Archaeological Discovery Ventures, had recovered the legendary Isabella Emerald©, the prized possession of the Conquistador Hernan Cortes, Conqueror of Mexico.

The 964-carat GIA-certified Isabella Emerald is the world’s largest gem crystal emerald.  Originally known as the Emerald of Judgment , it was taken from Montezuma, the Great Aztec Emperor, by Cortes and was renamed The Isabella Emerald in Honor of Queen Isabella of Portugal, the wife of Charles V.  

The initial recovery included over 100,000 carats of rough/uncut and cut and polished emeralds, including the world’s largest emerald conglomerates, weighing over 24,000 carats. The recovered treasure consists of hundreds of unique pieces of gold and priceless emerald jewelry as well as jade and gold masks, golden idols, sacrificial knives and instruments, gold and silver bars, 8 very rare Mayan ceremonial crystal skulls, and a signet ring that belonged to Cortes.

Chest of Rough Emeralds

There is an Aztec Codex legend, that predicts that the secrets of the Universe shall be revealed when all 12 Crystal Skulls are united with the Emerald of Judgment.

Ongoing Media Coverage

Download a Single PDF File of Many of the International Publications

USA Today

Featured the discovery of the Isabella Emerald on its front page.


Time Magazine

Featured our Chairman on the front cover of its International Issue.


Treasure Diver Magazine

Declared the discovery the “Greatest Treasure Ever Found”


Islands Magazine

Celebrated by featuring a hard cover collectors’ issue


Sources Magazine
The authority in Under Water Journal also called the discovery the “Greatest Treasure Ever Found”


The Compass Magazine
Dedicated 4 full-color pages on the discovery.


Oceanorama Magazine

For the Oceanographic Institutes, based in France, reported the discovery of the “Biggest Emerald Ever Found”.



One of the world’s most recognized publishers had the Isabella Emerald featured in the book "Diamonds & Precious Stones" as one of the world's most famous emeralds, alongside stones like the Hope Diamond and the British Crown Jewels. The difference being that the Hope Diamond received a single page and the Isabella Emerald received 2 pages in the book.


UK Diver Magazine
Published a multi-page ad on the discovery in 2010.


History Magazine (Canada)
Published a multi-page article on June/July 2012.

Virtually every major newspaper throughout the United States and Canada featured the story, including local papers in Geneva, Germany, Spain, Korea, Japan, Puerto Rico, Cuba and virtually all of the South American Countries carried the story of the discovery. 

Download a Single PDF File of Many of the International Publications

Television interviews were featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN nationally and internationally, including live talk shows via satellite in Australia and New Zealand,

Interviews by the Paris paper, "Le Dimanche", and the London Times generated a request from the Queen's Mother to view the “Isabella Emerald Treasure Collection” in person. To this day, she is the only person to have seen the collection to any degree. The collection has never been publicly exhibited.

Plans are moving forward for creation of a phenomenal shipwreck treasure experience called "The Treasures of the Americas", which will be located in South Florida. For more information, please visit our exhibit page.


Archaeological Discovery Ventures, LLC
1603 S Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401 USA
By Appointment Only, Please
+786-417-4910 Phone
+786-524-5747 Fax

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