Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-dfw9g Total loading time: 0.363 Render date: 2022-08-18T18:54:51.477Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Al-kindī on finding buried treasure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008

Charles Burnett
Warburg Institute, University of London, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB, U.K.
Keiji Yamamoto
Kyoto Sangyo University, Kamigamo-Motoyama, Kita-Ku, Kyoto 603, Japan
Michio Yano
Kyoto Sangyo University, Kamigamo-Motoyama, Kita-Ku, Kyoto 603, Japan


Al-Kindī contributed to the Arabic literature on methods of finding buried treasure. His short text on the subject has survived in two forms: a Letter, and a chapter of his astrological work known as The Forty Chapters. This article includes editions and translations of both these texts, as well as of the two Latin translations made of the chapter in The Forty Chapters and comments on the procedure advocated by al-Kindī.

Al-Kindī contribua à la littérature arabe en écrivant sur les méthodes de découverte des trésors ensevelis. Le texte court qu'il écrivit sur ce sujet a survécu sous deux formes: une Lettre, et un chapitre de son ouvrage d'astrologie connu sous le titre de Les quarantes chapitres. Cet article comporte des éditions et des traductions de l'un et l'autre textes, ainsi que les deux traductions latines faites du chapitre dans Les quarantes chapitres et des commentaires de la procédure preconisée par al-Kindī.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 A useful introduction to Islamic treasure-hunting and a guide to the bibliography on it is provided in Irwin, Robert, The Arabian Nights: A Companion (Harmondsworth, 1994), pp. 184–90. See alsoGoogle ScholarKamal, Ahmed Bey, Livre des perles enfouies et du mystère précieux au sujet des indications des cachettes, des trouvailles et des trésors (Cairo, 1907) (an edition and translation of the anonymous al-Durr al-maknūz). We are grateful to Gerrit Bos, Robert Irwin, David King and David Pingree for their advice.Google Scholar

2 Sezgin, Fuat, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, vol. VII (Leiden, 1979), p. 112, no. 2. The chapters on buried treasures are nos. 65 and 66 of the 138 chapters in the book and have been transcribed from the list of chapter-headings in MSS Princeton 4007, fols. 2v–3r and Berlin 5879, fol. 2v.Google Scholar

3 MS Milan, Ambrosiana, C 170; Sezgin, GAS, VII, 107, no. 21.Google Scholar

4 MS Berlin 5876, p. 252 (see also King, D.A., A Catalogue of the Scientific Manuscripts in the Egyptian National Library [in Arabic], 2 vols. [Cairo, 19811986], vol. II. p. 672).Google Scholar

5 MS Cambridge Gg. 3.19, fols. 52v–53r; Sezgin, GAS, VII, 124.Google Scholar

6 MS Cairo, Egyptian National Library, 639, 31 dm (see King, Catalogue, II, 788). For other, anonymous, chapters on buried treasure in the Egyptian National Library, see King, Catalogue, II, 722 and 788.Google Scholar

7 Burnett, Ch., ‘Al-Kindī on Judicial Astrology: “The Forty Chapters”’, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 3 (1993): 77117. We are again most grateful to Professor Roshdi Rashed for loaning us a copy of the microfilm, and to Hillary Wiesner for initial transcriptions of some of the MSS.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 ‘AlKindus, De Iudiciis’ is the only manuscript mentioned in Lilly's ‘Catalogue of Astrological Authors’ at the end of Christian Astrology; see fol. Nnnnnv. He quotes the text on p. 218, the first words of which read: ‘Alkindus giveth this generall rule concerning Treasure, or any thing obscured in the ground; Erect your Figure aright, consider the severall aspects of the Planets, if there be in the ascendant, or in any Angle a Fortune, say, there is Treasure in the ground, and that the thing hid is still in the ground, the quantity, price, esteem thereof, shall be according to the potency, vertue or debility of the Fortune.’Google Scholar

9 ‘From Arabic Books and Manuscripts II: Kindîana’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 69 (1949): 149–50. Rosenthal's hesitation over accepting the attribution to al-Kindī in the manuscript would seem to be unjustified.Google Scholar

10 GAS, VII, 133, no. 15.Google Scholar

11 Sezgin, F., Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, vol. VI (Leiden, 1978), p. 154, no. 8.Google Scholar

12 This work has no attribution, but is possibly the same as the R. fi al-'amal bi-alāla al-musammā al-ğāmi'a, mentioned as a work by al-Kindī by Ibn Abī Usaybi'a (see Rosenthal, ‘From Arabic books and manuscripts II’, p. 150); the sequence of folios in the manuscript has been disturbed.Google Scholar

13 Rosenthal, ‘From Arabic books and manuscripts II’, pp. 150–1.Google Scholar

14 The history of this text has been told in Burnett, “The Forty Chapters.”Google Scholar

15 The original folio numbers cannot be read on the microfilm.Google Scholar

16 See his preface, as edited and translated in Burnett, “The Forty Chapters,” pp. 106–7.Google Scholar

17 An edition of the text is given in Low-Beer, Sheila M., ‘Hermann of Carinthia: the “Liber Imbrium”, the “Fatidica” and the “De indagatione cordis'”’, Ph.D thesis (City University of New York, 1979), pp. 254–80. This edition, however, can only be regarded as provisional. The manuscripts and the contents of the works are described briefly inGoogle ScholarBurnett, Ch., ‘Arabic into Latin in twelfth century Spain: the works of Hermann of Carinthia’, Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch, 13 (1978): 100–34 (see pp. 118–21). Portions of the work also appear in Kues, 209, fols. 44r–46r (part A only) and Admont, 481, fol. 7r (‘Messahala, Liber absconditorum’; section on buried treasure only).Google Scholar

18 Other texts in Latin on hidden and buried things need to be investigated for their relation to each other and to Arabic texts. These include the chapters ‘de occultatione anuli sive alterius rei secundum Dorotheum” (incipit: ‘Cum aliquis occultaverit tibi anulum vel aliud quodlibet in aliquo loco in domo et volueris invenire eum …’), ‘in quadrante, hoc est figura extractionis occultorum secundum regulam hyles’ (inc.: ‘Inveniuntur per eam occulta per quadrantem nutu dei…’), and ‘Tractatus Dorothei in occultis’ (incipit: ‘Cum interrogatus fueris de thesauro vel de aliqua re occulta …’) which follow each other in Paris, BN, lat. 16204, pp. 425–6 and other MSS.Google Scholar

19 Quoted in Burnett, “The Forty Chapters,” p. 116.Google Scholar

20 Abū Ma'šar – The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, together with the Medieval Latin Translation of Adelard of Bath, edited and translated by Burnett, Charles, Yamamoto, Keiji and Yano, Michio (Leiden, 1994), pp. 1213 [2].Google Scholar

21 Because Low-Beer, Sheila, ‘Hermann of Carinthia’, did not compare this chapter of De occultis with Robert's Iudicia her edition (pp. 305–6) is vitiated. She considered MS O to be the best manuscript, but in fact its readings diverge from those of the Iudicia to a much greater extent than the readings of MSS QZ and D.Google Scholar

Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Al-kindī on finding buried treasure
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Al-kindī on finding buried treasure
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Al-kindī on finding buried treasure
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *