Starting from a watch dial, Mexican researchers are following a number of clues to find a purported treasure from Spain, while also hoping to find a survivor of that story that goes back to the 1930s exile of Spanish Republicans to Mexico.
The 7-centimeter (2 3/4-inch) watch dial was found Nov. 20 by divers from the underwater archaeology division of Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute, at the bottom of a lake in the crater of Nevado de Toluca volcano, at 4,200 meters (13,770 feet) above sea level.
The watch is related to other objects, including a locket and some boxes bearing the name of the Spanish bank Monte de Piedad de Madrid, which were found in the same lake in the 1960s by members of Mexico's Hombres Rana (Frogmen) Club, who kept them in a private collection.
The pieces might all be related to a treasure said to have been brought to Mexico in 1939 by Republican Spaniards who brought them from Monte de Piedad de Madrid - a savings bank now known as Caja Madrid - and from the Spanish central bank to help support the exiles.
The story remained literally submerged for the following decades until this year a group of archaeologists, led by Roberto Junco, climbed Nevado de Toluca volcano and descended to the bottom of Lake of the Sun, which has a depth of 12 meters (39 feet) and a water temperature of 5 C (41 F).
After several days of searching they found a watch face that is now being restored and studied.
Junco, who knew the story of the divers' club that in the mid-20th century found several objects in that lake, met one of them two years ago, who showed him photos taken at the time the discovery was made of pieces that might reasonably have belonged to the "Spanish treasure."
The story goes back to 1939, when Gen. Francisco Franco defeated forces loyal to the Spanish Republic.
That year the ship Vita set sail from a French port with Spanish Republicans aboard, who were apparently carrying objects of value packed in 120 boxes that are said to have been worth $300 million at the time.