The Fascinating World of Casino Archaeology


Modern gambling is an exciting world; a multi-billion dollar industry built upon excitement and thrills.


Gambling was not always this prevalent; gambling has an impressive history that is evidenced by archaeological finds. Below are some of the more incredible discoveries nearby that reveal gambling as a pastime.

The James Farnsley Site

Caesar’s Palace casino stands like an empire among the humble farmhouses and cabins dotting the Ohio River floodplain, promising archaeologists an abundance of prehistoric finds hidden underneath its floors.

Archaeologists discovered deeply-buried Early Archaic occupations across an 8,500-square foot block, covering their excavation area with a portable tent for year-round work. Despite encountering various challenges – equipment that escaped into a river, construction workers eager to return to work, issues with unions and OSHA inspections- the archaeological team completed excavations by 2000.

Farnsley Early Archaic occupations feature an array of point styles, such as Kirk Corner Notched and St. Charles types as well as unidentified reworked styles that share radiocarbon dates with those at Townsend and Swan’s Landing buried occupations, and have similarities to Thebes Cluster points from elsewhere in the region (Stafford & Cantin 2007).

Caesars’s Caesars Palace

Caesars Palace revolutionized Las Vegas with its Greco-Roman theme and lavish fountains when it first opened its doors in 1966. Now home to an exact copy of Bernini’s Piazza Navona fountain as well as statues and replicas of ancient Roman buildings, as well as top performers like Liberace, George Burns, Cher, Julio Iglesias and Judy Garland among others – it remains an unforgettable spectacle today.

Jay Sarno had grand plans for Caesars. One was to put piranhas into their Bacchanal Room pool – unfortunately, this plan was denied by the Health Department along with another proposal of dropping suckling pigs into the water for fish to eat and seemingly entertain guests!

The resort is known for its famous fountains, while the Colosseum theater features performances by big names such as Celine Dion and Elton John. There are six towers, 4,000 rooms and a 636,002-square-foot shopping mall at the hotel.

The SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck

In 2012, Science Channel’s What on Earth show featured footage of what appeared to be a large concrete ship that had washed ashore at Coronado beach and had an intriguing history that included being used as an underworld gambling vessel.

The 295ft ship believed to be the SS Monte Carlo was constructed in Wilmington in 1921 as an oil tanker SS Old North State (later renamed McKittrick). Following construction it went into service as gambling ship, brothel, and speakeasy – which were popular among mafia organizations that used such vessels along Californian coastline to circumvent Prohibition laws regarding alcohol consumption and gambling activity.

On New Year’s Day 1937, the SS Monte Carlo ran aground on Coronado Beach and was abandoned. Her owners never made an effort to salvage or claim ownership, leaving it now submerged under storm-shifted sands. Most interior furnishings had already been removed prior to this accident; however, its hull and smokestack remain visible at low tide on what locals refer to as Shipwreck Beach.

The Lost Island

Popular movies such as “National Treasure” and the Travel Channel series “Cash and Treasures” have created an interest in hidden treasure. One such legendary find may be Forest Fenn, an 85-year-old casino heir who left clues of his fortune on his ranch near Pahrump in Nevada.

Fenn’s poem inspired thousands of treasure hunters, many even dying trying to locate his lost wealth. Although its location remained mysterious, archaeologists have managed to piece together clues as far as its real location.

One of the park’s most remarkable discoveries was an enchanting island called Auk Modu, composed of five different elemental realms which are kept in balance by an immortal tyrant known as Q. This inspiring tale inspired The Lost Island dark ride at the park.

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