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28 Feb, 2008 11:05

Excitement builds at 'Amber Room' dig

Treasure hunters and journalists are flocking to an archeological site in Deutschneudorf in Germany. Discovered just a week ago it immediately attracted attention and raised hopes of finding the legendary Amber Room, stolen by the Nazis from a St. Petersb

Digging was stopped some time ago amid concerns the cave may collapse or be booby trapped. But it was resumed on Thursday.

“My father was a wireless operator and navigator and he had co-ordinates from flight-logbooks which led him exactly to this spot.  So we started digging here, right where we suppose the treasure to be,” Christian Hanisch, a treasure hunter said.

However, some are not so optimistic. Boris Igdalov, head of amber workshop, says, “This is no news for us, it happened many times before”.

“But I want to stress that if something is found there – not necessarily the Amber room – that'll be great,” he adds.

Enigmatic history

The original Amber Room was built in 1701.

It was installed in the Charlottesburg palace, where Russian tsar Peter the Great saw it for the first time and instantly fell in love with it. The room was later given to the tsar by the Prussian king, as a sign of allegiance.

For almost 40 years the room was disassembled and packed in crates. Then, in 1755, tsarina Elizabeth, known for her love for all things beautiful, ordered the room unpacked and assembled in her Palace.

Over the years, the chamber was decorated with a total of eight tonnes of Amber, backed with gold leaf. It took almost ten years to complete the 50 square meter room.

Three hundred years later during the German invasion of Russia in 1941 the curators of the Catherine Palace attempted to remove the room, but it had become brittle and started breaking.

They then tried to hide the room, by covering it with wallpaper – but it took the German soldiers only 36 hours to find it and take the room apart.

The crates containing the amber panels were transferred to the city of Konigsberg which is now Kaliningrad.

The fate of the Amber was a mystery for decades. Some researchers say it could have been destroyed by the heavy Allied bombing in 1945. Others presume the amber panels were taken aboad a German submarine, which was later sunk.

The latest theory is the room is hidden in a bunker somewhere in Germany.