Vive la France! The Curse of Oak Island headed across the Atlantic this week as Rick Lagina along with his nephews Alex Lagina and Peter Fornetti followed up leads surrounding a Knights Templar link to Oak Island.
An archaeological dig started on Lot 24 — one of the lots that used to be owned by former slave Samuel Ball — and the drilling efforts to bore down into what’s hoped is the original way got under way, albeit slowly.
Here’s 10 things we learned in The Curse of Oak Island: Season 5 Episode 9!
1 The digging is slow going
The episode started where last week’s ended, with a huge caisson being pushed down into the ground at the location known as “H-8” in the hopes of finding the original Money Pit.
Annoyingly but understandably, boring a 50in wide metal pipe 200ft down into the ground looks like it is going to take a while. By the start of this week’s episode, they had only managed to reach 10ft under ground.
The good news is, by next week’s episode it looks like they get down to their first target depth of around 150ft (this took around 4-5 days in real life), where it’s hoped they will find the so-called Chappell Vault (see entry 9 below).
2 The “HO stone” has interesting links
The “HO” stone was part of a huge boulder found on the Oak Island shore back in 1921 by treasure hunters, and which was covered in engraved writing. Without any apparent thought for the clues it might hold, they unfortunately blew it up.
All that remained was the slab containing the mysterious markings of “H” and “O” and, in between the two letters, a cross surrounded by four dots.
After Rick, Alex and Peter arrived in France, Nichola Luis — the researcher hired by the team there — showed them how similar that cross was to one found on a depiction of a Knights Templar shield she had found in a Templar chapel. Similar ones were also found at the prison at Domme which the team visited later in the episode (see entry 7 below).
Nichola also shed some light on the possible meanings of the H and the O — saying that the H could stand for the greek letter Eta, while the O was likely actually an Θ — the Greek letter Theta.
She also said that the Theta — which is the first letter of Theos, the Greek word for God, could be a Christogram, commonly used to represent Jesus Christ in Byzantine and medieval eras. One of the oldest Christograms was the Chi Rho cross, which was later adopted by the Knights Templar.
As Rick said on the episode, all this information suggested that whoever carved the symbols on the HO stone probably hadn’t just done it “on a lark” — they must have known what they were doing.
3 The foundations on Lot 24 could be part of a watchtower
While most of the episode was devoted to Rick, Alex and Peter’s adventures in France, back on Oak Island Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship and Gary Drayton joined Laird Niven to start an archaeological dig on Lot 24.
It came after an unnatural formation of stones was found there earlier in the season, forcing Laird to stop them excavating further before they got the required permits.
After removing some of the soil, Laird said he believed what they were looking at was a stone floor. They also found a piece of Staffordshire slipware pottery, which Laird believed dates from the 17th to mid 18th century.
Because of it’s location, sitting over the water from the mainland, the team speculated whether the foundations could have been part of a watchtower or lookout post.
Narrator Robert Clotworthy said: “Could it have been built by someone who kept watch over the Money Pit site, or someone who helped dig it? ”
4 Zena Halpern’s map translation was inaccurate
The main reason Rick headed to France was because of the map shown him and the team by Zena Halpern last season, which included a reference to Francois de La Rochefoucauld. However, it seems a translation of the text on the map, which was also given to the team, did not capture what it said correctly.
At Chateau de La Rochefoucauld, caretaker and 42nd generation Rochefoucauld descendent Sonia Matossian explained that a word they thought meant “glass” actually meant “towards”.
So instead of reading “this drawing for Mr. Francois Rochefoucauld, a little drink from Noustria” in fact says something along the lines of “this sketch for Mr La Rochefoucauld, a little towards the west”. But to the west of what?
5 The La Rochefoucauld family could have had links to the Templars
Rick looked like he was kind of hoping for confirmation about there being members of the Knights Templar in the La Rochefoucauld family. He didn’t get what he was looking for. However, it does look feasible that they would have had contact with members of the mysterious order.
Sonia Matossian said that while she had never heard of Templars in her family, they did take part in the Crusades and while there would more than likely have got to know members of the Knights Templar.
Rick said of the La Rochefoucaulds: “This family is a dynasty – extremely powerful, extremely influential, and there’s no way that they did not have some sort of interaction with the Templars. Might that interaction have carried back once they came back from the Crusades? I should think yes.”
What the team want to know now is whether the Templars could have entrusted the La Rochefoucaulds — who were more religious than military — with the whereabouts of valuable religious artifacts they had rescued from the Holy Land.
6 Templars made carvings in walls with their TEETH
This wasn’t 100 per cent for sure, but during a visit to the Templar prison at Domme, expert Jerry Glover explained to Rick, Alex and Peter how carvings on the walls there were likely made by imprisoned knights using their fingernails — or teeth!
They would have had all their weapons taken off them, so would have needed something hard to be able to etch things into the stone walls. Gulp!
7 The cross with dots around it is everywhere
The prison at Domme was founded in 1281 by King Phillip III of France. After his sudden death in 1285, his son Phillip IV took the crown and soon fell into substantial debt to the Knights Templar. So then what did he do?
On Friday 13th, 1307 — yup, that’s where the unlucky Friday 13th thing comes from — he ordered that the Templars be rounded up and arrested on orders of heresy. Some members were imprisoned at Domme, spending up to seven years there, while being tortured and eventually executed.
Jerry Glover said the carvings in the walls are believed to have been made by the the Templars — who knew they were going to die — to preserve and share their “thoughts and sacred ideas”.
One of the symbols that appeared? A cross with dots around it, very similar to the one on the “HO” stone as mentioned above. The cross is based on the Jerusalem crucifix, which used to have four small crosses around it representing the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
When the Knights Templar adopted it, they are said to have changed the four crosses to four coins to represent the banking system they established.
8 The Nolan’s Cross ‘tree of life’ theory got a boost
Another etching on one of the walls at Domme showed a mysterious looking network of lines with crosses branching off a main stem. Glover suggested that given Templar connections to the Holy Land, it may have been inspired by the Kabbalistic tree of life.
The one at Domme certainly doesn’t look like the tree of life we know today, but it also does have similarities — and Glover said that it may look different simply because it has evolved over time.
Where else have we seen a possible tree of life? The series of large boulders on Oak Island known as Nolan’s Cross.
After returning to Oak Island, Marty asked Rick what everything they found in France meant for the team’s research. Rick said: “We garnered some truths from the walls at Domme that the Templars did believe in the tree of life and it was important enough to carve into stone to pass on to future generations.” He added: “I believe that Nolan’s Cross has something to do with the swamp — and the tree of life.”
Looks like it could be time to…drain the swamp!
9 They hit something at 170ft in borehole H-8
It looks like things are about to get exciting in the Money Pit area next week. The sneak peek at the end of this week’s episode showed that the team’s 50in caisson reaches 170ft down and then…they hit something!
One of the operators tells Marty it’s a “flat, hard surface”. Chappell Vault, anyone?
10 There’s two more interesting finds next episode
The sneak peek for next week’s episode also showed two more interesting discoveries — including one which links back to the team’s time in France.
Footage showed metal-detecting expert Gary Drayton uncovering something among boulders on the shore, which appears to be in the shape of a figure. He then hands it to Rick, who appears stunned, saying: “I’ve seen that shape before — in the Templar prison in France.”
We also saw local area historian Doug Crowell showing the team a ship’s log he has found, which reads: “It has been agreed that a deep pit be dug and treasures securely buried. The pit to have a secret entrance by tunnel from the shore.”
Could it be?
The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on History.