Didem Doğan

Museo de Oro: endless stories that the gold tell us, the legend of El Dorado

Long before the Spanish came here, today’s Colombia was a land where many clans, with their own culture and social structure used to live: Muiscas in today’s Bogota metropolitan area, Tayronas in the north, many others like Sunis, Quimbayas, San Augustines, Zunus, people whom were later called ‘indians’ by the White Man. The museum has a rich collection of thousands of pieces which give us clues of the daily lives, spiritual practices, social conditions of these people; so it is a real gem! You start your visit by watching a video on metallurgy, later you pass to the halls where the collection is divided into themes like cosmology, death, etc. It is very well organised and explained, do not miss this if you want to deeper into Colombia’s antiquity. Among thousands of pieces that are exhibited in the museum maybe this one is the most important: it looks like a raft, a group of people stand on it, the big one should be the chief, the leader maybe, it looks like those puppet like ‘fantasia’s of Brazilian Samba Promenades. The white man, as soon as he landed here, was in the search of gold. According to the legend, there was a land of ‘El Dorado’, a distant land full of gold. When Spanish arrived in 1537 to the land of the Muiscas they heard that a Chieftain along with his people throw gold and emerald to the lake, this ceremony, according to them could be their coronation ceremony. They thought that the legend of El Dorado had something to do with this ceremony. In fact, the Muiscas not only made this ceremony in the lake of Guatavita, but in other lakes as well, they were ceremonies of ‘offerings’, in certain times such as sowing, harvest, the movement of stars, etc. The Spanish could not find that legendary gold lying at the base of the lake, which resulted in the exploitation of the water. This raft exhibited in the museum shows the Chieftain and the people of his clan (probably of a lower hierarchy), carrying rings on his nose and ears.