[[caption-width-right:303:[[BearsAreBadNews I really hope that bear is just]] \\
[[HereThereBeDragons the cartographer being cute.]]]]
->''"We got us a map\\
That leads us to a hidden box\\
That's all locked up with locks\\
And buried deep away\\
We'll dig up the box\\
We know it's full of [[PirateBooty precious booty]]\\
Burst open the locks\\
And then we'll say 'Hurray'"!''
-->-- ''Series/LazyTown'', "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEBbu-wkKrs You Are A Pirate]]"

Follow the map, dig up the treasure, get rich -- ASimplePlan which seldom works.

First, the heroes have to find the map. If they're lucky, someone will conveniently drop dead at their feet with the map on them; if they're less lucky it will have been hidden in some old heirloom. If they're ''really'' unlucky, it'll have been cut up into pieces, each held by a different group of treasure hunters; the heroes will have to [[DismantledMacguffin collect all the pieces]] before they can even start looking for the treasure.

Next, they'll need to find the starting point, the right tropical isle or hidden cave. Getting there may be an adventure in itself. Once there, the heroes have to find the actual location of the treasure. This can be as simple as "X marks the spot", or "fifteen paces south of the dead pine" (though might find that fifteen paces for one of their group doesn't cover the same distance for another) up to having to navigate a BambooTechnology DeathCourse, with only cryptic comments scrawled on the map to help them find the safe route through. If StatusQuoIsGod either the treasure will [[AllThatGlitters turn out to be worthless]] or the heroes will have to [[FriendOrIdolDecision abandon it for the greater good]].

Expect at least one group of antagonists to be on the heroes' heels throughout all this.

The treasure can range from criminal loot and {{pirate}} gold to [[TempleOfDoom ancient temples]] and powerful {{MacGuffin}}s. The heroes will never think about handing it over to the authorities.

The AdventurerArchaeologist will often come across treasure maps. This trope is also a form of AMacguffinFullOfMoney. This trope is often associated with PirateBooty, despite the fact that pirates rarely buried treasure - the typical pirate would spend most of his income from a voyage outfitting the ship for the next one, and squander the rest on high living before setting out on said voyage.

A Treasure Map does not always have to be a literal map, as in topographical chart. Encrypted messages often form an essential part of a Treasure Map, and sometimes an encrypted message ''is'' the map.

If it turns out that the map isn't real, it's a FoolsMap. In a series that doesn't usually feature this plot, see the SubTrope TreasureHuntEpisode.

See also NeverWinTheLottery.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* One side-arc of ''Manga/OnePiece'' featured a character who, while following a treasure map, got stuck in a box and was unable to claim the treasure (several chests at the top of a cliff). The trope was subverted when Luffy climbed the cliff for him and found the treasure chests were empty - someone else had taken the treasure long before the first guy got there.
* In ''LightNovel/{{Slayers}} Next'', Lina acquires a decidedly unhelpful treasure map that guides her to the location of a book of singularly useless ritual spells/festival dances.
* Subverted in ''Anime/TransformersCybertron'': The map to the planets where the Cyber Planet Keys lie turns out to have been rendered just about useless due to stellar drift, and the attempts to recalibrate it to compensate end in failure. The heroes and villains alike end up having to find more current co-ordinates via other leads.
* In ''Anime/UmiMonogatari'', Marin and Kanon go in search of treasure, but end up finding angry pirates.

[[folder:Audio Adaptation]]
* The AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho audio adventure ''[[Recap/BigFinishDoctorWho043DoctorWhoAndThePirates Doctor Who and the Pirates]]'' features just about every pirate trope. Including a treasure map.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Creator/CarlBarks' and Creator/DonRosa's [[ComicBook/DisneyDucksComicUniverse Uncle Scrooge]] stories often used this plot.
* Averted in the ''{{Tintin}}'' two part story, "Recap/TintinTheSecretOfTheUnicorn" and "Recap/TintinRedRackhamsTreasure" in the necessary information is not a map, but three papers that when held together reveal the coordinates of the sunken ship's location. Even then, Tintin had to reckon with Capt's Haddock using the Paris Meridian and not the Prime Meridian for his starting point and even then the whole message on the papers really meant that the treasure was [[spoiler:actually hidden in Marlinspike Hall]]. At one point they misunderstand the map, thinking the treasure is buried on the Island, then after digging realize that Sir Francis wouldn't have left the treasure on the island and never come back for it.
* Common in {{ComicBook/Bamse}}'s adventures.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* A 2009 ''ComicStrip/PearlsBeforeSwine'' strip features a {{pirate}} whose [[APirate400YearsTooLate dry-cleaning business]] [[http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2009/08/26 has terrible customer service.]]

[[folder: Fan Works]]
* The four take a complicated map off a mugger in ''Fanfic/TheKeysStandAlone: The Soft World''. They're told it leads to a mine. “Why would we want to go to a mine?” George sensibly asks. The woman they asked tells them the mine is probably infested with monsters or bandits and must hold something good, since it requires a rare jump gem to get there. The four decide the map must have been given them by the gods to point them to the amulet Ringo wants so badly. However, when they finally get the requisite jump gem and go to the valley where the mine is, they discover that another adventuring party has beaten them there and is just about to come out with the spoils. HilarityEnsues.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheRoadToElDorado'' uses this for the first half-hour or so, with the rest set in the 'treasure' of El Dorado.
* ''Disney/TreasurePlanet.'' - A holographic treasure map guides the way ... which is not surprising, since it is ''Literature/TreasureIsland'' [[RecycledInSpace IN SPACE!]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE'', a map to the eponymous Titan is hidden inside the ring the main character, Cale, has as a memento of his father. Like a treasure map, you have to decode and visit every stop along the way.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/CitySlickersIITheLegendOfCurlysGold'' subverts this: [[spoiler:the map led to fake treasure as part of an "adventure tour."]]
** [[spoiler: However, it turned out at the very end that this was only a portion of the map, and that the complete version would lead to real treasure.]]
* Before anyone can venture into the Film/CutthroatIsland, three pieces that construct its map must be found first.
* In ''Film/TheGoonies'', Mikey leads the Goonies with the centuries-old map hoping it still leads to PirateBooty. Of course, [[TheLegendOfChekhov it does]].
* Featured in ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade'', complete with a LampshadeHanging on the trope. The beginning of the movie has Indy telling his students that "[archelogists] don't follow maps to buried treasure, and X never, ever marks the spot." Of course, both statements turn out to be untrue.
* ''Film/ItsAMadMadMadMadWorld'' - Grogan's FinalSpeech functions as a treasure map.
* ''Film/ThePacifier'' also had a bit of this, with the route for how to get through the obstacle course coded into "The Peter Panda Dance", a child's bedtime rhyme.
* ''Film/RomancingTheStone'' plays this one straight.
* ''Film/ThreeKings'' was a strange example of this, with bored infantry finding the map in an enemy soldier's butt. It's better than it sounds.
* ''Film/{{The Mummy|1999}}'' features a map to Hamunaptra, although it's destroyed accidentally-on-purpose by the curator (secretly a [[AncientTradition Medjai]]) and Jonathan and Evy have to rely on Rick's knowledge of where Hamunaptra is.
* In ''Film/TheMummyReturns'', the map is in the form of a hologram projected by the Bracelet of Anubis, showing the way to Ahm Shere.
* ''Film/{{Yellowbeard}}'': The treasure map is tattooed on the head of Yellowbeard's son Dan.
* One of the infamous plot points of ''Film/NationalTreasure'' was that there was a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. It turns out to be of the encrypted message-type rather than an actual map.
* ''Film/{{Waterworld}}'' featured a map tattooed on a child's back. As the entire world was flooded, the island it led to ''was'' the treasure.

* In Creator/EdgarAllanPoe's short story ''The Gold-Bug'', a hobby entomologist looking for beetles at a beach stumbles upon a piece of parchment with an encrypted message, which, once decoded, points the way to Captain Kidd's fabled [[PirateBooty buried treasure.]]
* The map in ''Literature/TreasureIsland'' (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson - TropeCodifier.
* Subverted in Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Discworld/GoingPostal''. In the first chapter, the imprisoned Moist indicates to his jailers that yes, he has a treasure map to his ill-gotten gains in his pockets, a map full of everything to gladden a treasure hunter's heart, cryptography, puzzles, clues, etc etc. It's fake. According to Moist, any criminal worth the title would simply remember where he's stashed the loot.
* In Creator/RobertEHoward's Literature/ConanTheBarbarian story "Literature/ThePoolOfTheBlackOne", Zaporavo has a book.
-->''He desired to learn if this island were indeed that mentioned in the mysterious Book of Skelos, whereon, nameless sages aver, strange monsters guard crypts filled with hieroglyph-carven gold. ''
* In the Literature/SherlockHolmes stories, the eponymous ''Musgrave Ritual'' was in fact a set of steps to find where the crown of Charles I had been hidden. The story glosses over the point that given that the ritual was created circa 1650 and utilized circa 1870, it was only chance that the instructions in the ritual weren't hopelessly inaccurate (The starting point of the ritual is determined by the shadow cast by a certain tree when the sun was above a second tree. After 220 years, both trees would have grown, changing the angle of the sun and the length of the shadow. In addition, all later directions were marked in steps, which vary from person to person. Had the treasure been buried rather than stashed in a hidden basement, they'd have never found it).
* The short story "The Most Precious of Treasures" by Desmond Warzel. Tha map is genuine, but the treasure is...unexpected.
* Kit Williams' ''[[Literature/KitWilliamsMasquerade Masquerade]]'', published in 1979, was a picture book containing clues to a '''real''' hidden treasure: a jeweled rabbit crafted by the author to promote its sales.
** In a subversion, the "winner" didn't actually solve the puzzle: he just used [[ScrewTheRulesIHaveConnections information from William's ex-girlfriend]] and a metal detector. [[http://www.thefoolsparadise.com/masquerade/bitter-end.htm It's a sad story.]]
* ''The Quest for the Missing Map'', a ''NancyDrew'' book, concerns the "pirate map divided in half" variation.
* The Drew children follow one to find the grail in ''Literature/OverSeaUnderStone''.
* In one of Literature/TheRiftwarCycle novels, it's mentioned that selling fake treasure maps was a common trick to get young men to wander out into the middle of nowhere so they could be captured by slavers. The boy who would become Macros the Black was one said victim of this con.
* In ''Though Not Dead'', Literature/KateShugak gets sent on a treasure hunt by Old Sam's will. It ultimately leads her to an actual treasure map that guides her to the lost icon.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''PirateMaster'' did a game show version of this.
* ''Series/{{Treasure Hunt|UK}}''.
* The revived ''Series/WKRPInCincinnati'' did an episode where the gang goes on a treasure hunt inside the (multistory) building that houses the station. In a subversion, the treasure exists, and they find it, but do so much damage to the building in the process they end up merely breaking even.
* An episode of ''Series/XenaWarriorPrincess'' included the search for a large, hidden treasure with a treasure map that had been ripped into several pieces. The different people looking for the map were forced to work together as they had memorized their portions of the map and then destroyed them. Most of the treasure was the usual gold trinkets, but it included a place of Ambrosia, which would supposedly would turn whoever ate it into a god.
* ''Series/{{Monk}}'' notably inverts this in one episode: Troy, the disrespecting, rebellious teenage son of Dr. Charles Kroger, Monk's psychiatrist, found what appeared to be a treasure map inside of a dead criminal's hand while playing hookie. He then ends up dragging Monk along to find the treasure. Turns out the map didn't lead to treasure at all. [[TheSummation Here's what really happened]]: during the robbery, one of the robbers, Jack Connolly, was mortally wounded when he was shot by a guard (who was promptly killed by Jack's partner, said criminal that Troy's friends got the map from after he died of a heart attack). This proved trouble for Jack's brother Steven, who happened to be the bank's assistant branch manager (and had planned the heist with him), after Jack succumbed hours later, since the police would know the robbery was an inside job if the body was identified. So the heart attack criminal was drawn a map that indicated where to bury the body.
* [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AzpByR3MvI The song at the top of this page]] from ''Series/LazyTown'' fits this trope perfectly.
* The Mad Dog Morgan episode of ''Series/WildBoys'' centres around the a map to cache of stolen gold.
* In ''Series/{{Crusoe}}'', the guy who knew the whereabouts of the treasure hidden on Crusoe's island (a golden cannon!) tattooed it onto the back of the guy he was stuck in prison with -- while the mapmaker was sinking deeper into dementia. Remarkably, the map worked, though it was coded so only Crusoe could figure it out. The map resurfaces much later as a guide to the island -- salvaged from the poor guy's back after he died.
-->'''Jeremiah Blackthorn''': Is this leather?
-->'''Santos Santana''': Not exactly.
** Friday later explains Crusoe's surprised reaction to seeing the "leather" version by joking that Crusoe "knew the map's previous owner."
* On ''Series/{{Leverage}}'', Hardison invokes this during "The Gold Job" when he attempts to run the con, basing it on video game design. [[spoiler: [[ComplexityAddiction Unfortunately, it fails and Nate's 60 second plan actually works.]]]]
* The ''Series/TimeTeam'' dig on Looe Island was actually given a real "treasure map" that had been discovered by an amateur historian which, intriguingly, managed to coincide with a real geophysical anomaly. It turned out to be the marker place for a Victorian era flagpole. So much for the treasure of Cornish pirates.

* The "Skulduggery" table of ''VideoGame/FullTiltPinball'' requires the player to assemble a treasure map to find Peg Leg's treasure.
* In ''Pinball/{{Congo}}'', shooting the Map Saucer displays a map on the display; at each juncture, the player can choose one of three routes to take and travel to either the Volcano or Diamond Hunt Multiball.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The ''VideoGame/MonkeyIsland'' series features this often. Notably the Treasure hunting trial in the first game (also a slight subversion, since the TreasureMap was actually a set of ''dance instructions'', and the treasure was [[spoiler: a T-shirt]]), and the quest for Big Whoop in the second, where finding all pieces of the map took up most of the game.
** Guybrush was very unlucky in the third game, when he had to get the map off of some guy's back. The map was actually sunburned skin. Rottingham said it perfectly: "That's your map? Eeeew."
* ''VideoGame/RomancingSaGa'' pulls this off well several times:
** [[spoiler: One Treasure is the Opal of Wind that was stolen by Captain Silver from the Bafal Empire, Silver employed Gecklings to haul the treasure in a cave in the jungle, and then killed off all but one who escaped; the one who escaped created a map to get there. You will get this when you complete the Gecklings request regardless.]]
** [[spoiler: The Second is the Moonstone which is hidden in Twinmoon Temple, but you need to get the directions in an ancient language and decipher it in order to get the keys to enter the temple, however you have to be quick in getting it because if you do not, Hawke will get it, which is a better idea since you can pull WutaiTheft on him to get the directions.]]
** Also you can find maps to regular treasure throughout the game, often more valuable than other treasure you can find.
* In ''VideoGame/RedDeadRedemption'' you can follow Treasure Maps and follow them for treasure, achievements, and perks. Also, the character Seth has long been searching for treasure via maps and word of mouth, and though the treasure he threw his life away to find turns out to be a dud, after the end of the game you can read a newspaper which implies he eventually found another one elsewhere.
* ''VideoGame/{{Dubloon}}'' has a treasure map that also works as a PointAndClickMap. [[WithThisHerring It begins with humble two islands]], and you have to fill it with help from various maps strewn throughout the world. There's also an old pirate who will help you find all the treasure by marking islands you haven't fully plundered yet.
* There were quite a few of these in ''Pirates!''.
* There was a treasure map minigame in ''VideoGame/Sly3HonorAmongThieves''.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker'' has a LOT of these. {{Justified|Trope}} seeing as the majority of the game is based on sailing and navigation. The Dungeon maps may or may not count, seeing as they ''do'' show locations of treasure maps..
* ''VideoGame/ZackAndWikiQuestForBarbarosTreasure'' {{justifie|dTrope}}s this seeing as it's a game about a Pirate.
* Treasure maps are items to be collected in ''VideoGame/TreasureAdventureGame''. They reveal the location of secret passages that lead to dungeons and special items.
* Some examples turn up in the ''VideoGame/NancyDrew'' video games, although they're more likely to lead to an intermediate clue to the treasure than the actual loot.
* In ''Videogame/AssassinsCreedIVBlackFlag'', you can find and follow treasure maps. They don't lead to money but rather upgrades for [[CoolBoat the Jackdaw]]. ''Videogame/AssassinsCreedRogue'' also uses the trope in the exact same manner.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV'' has treasure maps inside bottles that players can find while mining, fishing, or doing botany. The map shows a small section of the regional map and a red X indicating where the treasure coffer is located. After digging up the coffer, trying to open it will always have a group of monsters attack you since the coffer is rigged with a trap and you have to kill all the monsters before you can open the coffer for its contents (usually rare materials, tomestones, gil, or even a more rare treasure map). Some coffers will require multiple players working together to fight the monsters since a solo player would not survive.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''ComicStrip/WhatsNewWithPhilAndDixie'' [[http://www.airshipentertainment.com/growfcomic.php?date=20080316 demonstrates]] the usefulness:
-->'''The Soulless One''': Ever since I started handing out fake maps I've saved a ''fortune'' in monster feed!
* In ''Webcomic/LilGotham'', the pirate Greenbeard plants treasure maps to lead unsuspecting tourists into his ambush. When they reach the spot, there is even a giant X painted on the ground.
* In ''Webcomic/TheStoryOfAnima'', [[http://tapastic.com/episode/91187 a treasure map belonging to the Blackmare Pirate clan]] is what leads into the Treasure Hunt arc.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Used as a plot point in the New Nethervegas arc of ''Roleplay/WeAreOurAvatars''. The treasure found was a set of notes relevant to the election and a Panic Button.
* Kor Icomb of ''Literature/SkiesUnbroken'' inherited one (ekhm) from his old SkyPirate captain. He's now following it.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'':
** In an episode, Bart and Grandpa ''do'' find the treasure, and it's ''not'' worthless, but it's immediately seized by the US State Department for return to its original owners.
** Another episode subverted the idea with a parody of ''ItsAMadMadMadMadWorld'' - the criminal lied about the treasure to give himself the time to escape from prison. Of course, the Springfieldians are too stupid to realize that there's no treasure, even after they find a note from the crook telling them the truth.
* On the ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'' episode "Aargh!", Spongebob, Patrick and Mr. Krabs play a board game called Dutchman's Treasure, which Krabs becomes obsessed with. The next day, Krabs claims to have a real treasure map and takes Spongebob and Patrick on a journey to find it. Later, the map turns out to be [[spoiler:the game board, which Krabs had taken for a real map. However, it does turns out to be a ''real'' treasure map, as they do find the tresure, only for the Flying Dutchman to take it back.]]
** [[spoiler: He did give Spongebob and Patrick a gold doubloon for digging it up for him, while Mr. Krabs got a little plastic treasure chest based on the real thing]].
* Raj from ''WesternAnimation/CampLazlo'' gets a treasure map marked out on his butt in mosquito bites (ItMakesSenseInContext) in "Lumpy Treasure".
* In ''WesternAnimation/DonkeyKongCountry'', DK finds a treasure map, and the entire cast (Minus Cranky and Klump) gets mixed up in the hunt. [[spoiler: In the end we learn that DK ''himself'' drew that map as a child while playing pirates, and the 'treasure' was nothing more than a barrel full of bananas- bananas that have gone rotten from age.]]
* A continuous bumper segment of ''WesternAnimation/TheBeatles'' has George and John following a treasure map which eventually leads them to what they think is a giant pearl atop a tree. It turns out to be a goose egg.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheHairBearBunch'' episode "Gobs Of Gobaloons" has the bears finding the map to a hidden treasure. The problem: it's buried under zookeeper Peevly's office.
* Inversion: The whole premise of Hanna-Barbera's ''Space Kidettes'' is Captain Skyhook and his crony Static trying to get hold of a treasure map the Kidettes presumably have. The map is never seen nor its potential treasure disclosed.
* In ''WesternAnimation/BarbieAndHerSistersInTheGreatPuppyAdventure'', Barbie and her sisters finding a treasure map in the attic is what sparks the plot.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/{{Gofrette}}'' episode "The Pirates of Zanimo", Gofrette, along with Fudge and Ellie, try to find his treasure map, sent by his Granny Smith, after two pirates get a hold of it and reach the treasure first.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* [[ShroudedInMyth Legend and Wikipedia has it]] that the notorious pirate Olivier Levasseur, nicknamed ''La Buse'', threw a parchment with an encrypted message into the assembled crowd immediately before he was hanged in Saint-Denis on Réunion in 1730, [[WeaselWords allegedly]] accompanied by the words ''"Find my treasure, ye who may understand it!"'' [[note]]Or rather their French equivalent.[[/note]]. It is furthermore rumored that, since then, many a father's inheritance has been blown on projects of [[GetRichQuickScheme decoding the message and finding the treasure.]] [[SchmuckBait You can try your luck]], since [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivier_Levasseur the cryptogram is obviously in the public domain.]] However, considering [[spoiler:that the cryptogram's history is only tracable back to 1923, there is no hard evidence that the message is original, or that such a message existed in the first place, or that Levasseur ever buried treasure. Spoiler indeed.]]
* UsefulNotes/{{Geocaching}} is a 21st-century recreational variant of this trope, using [=GPS=] coordinates and riddles as the "map" and bragging rights for having found caches as the "treasure".
* The mysterious so-called [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_scroll Copper Scroll]], one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, lists the locations and contents of no less than 63 treasure troves. Archeologists have attempted to follow the directions, but have found nothing.