For centuries, Europeans were dazzled by the legend of El Dorado, and hundreds of expeditions were organized in search of this mysterious city bathed in gold. The British Museum is organizing from October 17 to March 14 an exhibition that brings together some of the best known legends and rites and consider what is the truth behind them. Through more than 300 objects, many of them belonging to the Museum of Bogotá, Colombia, technological advancement and sophisticated techniques of jewelry, including the use of textiles, stones, feathers, ceramics and, of course, gold are shown.
The sample is divided into around 8 screens. The first focuses on the myth and reality. We can find some pots, stone beads and offerings of gold belonging to the Muisca territory, indigenous people. Its inhabitants left the gold unpolished, since not trying to ornaments, but a way to communicate with the supernatural.
When the Spaniards arrived at the coast, they discovered many ethnic groups with different languages, cultures and lifestyles. The next room highlights six archaeological regions to illustrate the diversity of gold production in ancient Colombia. This precious metal was not used for their economic value, but it had a symbolic value. It highlights a jaguar shaped bottle belongs to Malagana-Calima region, made of gold, whose brightness was associated with the colour and energy of the sun.
The third area shows the manufacture of other materials such as cotton, stone, ceramics, leather, wood and bone. Parts of some animals, such as skin, tail and claws, were highly valued in Colombian society. They were used in rituals and dressed in the ceremonies.
The social hierarchy is another issue addressed by the exhibition. Spiritual guides, leaders and other members of the elite presided through elaborate rituals and ceremonies to communicate with ancestors and spirits who had the power to maintain balance and well-being of the community. Room four covers some of the objects used in these events, as permanent ornaments torso. It highlights a ceramic figures used to paint bodies and show the status and identity in the community.
Rooms 5, 6 and 7 show their connection to the universe through music, plants and animals. Through new identities, they sought new perspectives of seeing the world.
Finally, the exhibition includes the ritual of death and the afterlife. Big gold masks, one of the most prominent objects, helped maintain the status of the deceased.
The exhibition reveals the extraordinary metallurgical skill of ancient peoples Colombia through a unique collection of objects which, in turn, reveal a culture of rites, beliefs and ceremonies.