El Dorado: the Legendary Kingdom of Gold



For centuries, most ingenious explorers vainly chasing the traces of a fabulous golden land located in South America. What tracks have been covered so far? Where is the mythical place? And who was El Dorado, the Golden Man?

Since time immemorial mankind is obsessed with Gold, that neither moth nor rust can devour, but devoured the mind of the man. Despite its abundance in the bazaars of the East, gold has always been rare and is estimated that the total amount extracted to date is less than one million tons. For this, it has become representative of what is most valuable.

Maybe that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but the people speak of a Golden Age, a heart of gold, a golden opportunity. For the artisans is an unparalleled material that is malleable like clay and hard as stone. The rarity and beauty of gold made it the metal of kings.

The Egyptians associated it to the sun and the essence of life. In what was once the North African Gold Coast, corresponding to the current Ghana, the famous Golden Throne of the King of Ashanti embodied the soul of the nation and a pinch of gold dust introduced into the thong of the dead constituted a passing to the spirit world.

In ancient North gold was the ultimate treasure guarded by the dragon. It was the gold to convince the Portuguese to go with their ships beyond the boundaries marked on the cards, to recall the Spaniards in the New World. It was for gold, which for centuries hundreds of men lost their lives, chasing the dream of El Dorado.

In the region now known as the Amazonian forest, there would have been a secret and enchanting city, and that its buildings were covered and decorated with gold. The Gold would come to designate the city itself, but also because the leader of this civilization to be called the Golden Prince or El Dorado. The stories about the Golden prince were inspired by the ancient Chibcha civilization that would have existed in Colombia.

Worshipers of the Sun, the Chibchas considered gold an earthly incarnation of their favorite divinity, the Sun-God. Once a year, the Chibcha king covered himself with gold powder, took a raft to the center of the lagoon of Guatavita, which was near the present city of Bogota, and made an offering there with gold objects. This ritual, practiced for hundreds of years, had already disappeared when the Spaniards invaded South America. But the imagination of the Europeans mingled with Indian accounts, and the story became more and more impressive.

The capital of Eldorado would be a city called Omágua or Manoa, full of shining temples and palaces and crossed by solid gold mountain ranges. The country would be inhabited by strange creatures called ewaipamonas, a race of men without neck, whose face was at the height of the chest. And the borders of Eldorado would be defended by women warriors, who were baptized of amazonas, a name that was inspired by a nation of women-soldiers of Greek mythology.

El Dorado is a legendary kingdom or city, supposedly located in the territory of the ancient Colombia, in an area where it was believed that there were abundant gold mines, as well as ancient esoteric knowledge. The legend originates in the 16th century in Colombia, when the Spanish conquerors heard of a ceremony carried out further north (Cundiboyacan altiplano), where a king covered his body with gold dust and made offerings in a sacred lagoon.

The Chibcha prince was anointed with oil and sprinkled with gold dust and then turned into a golden man. In the large lagoon of Guatavita were made offerings and sacrifices to the demon which they worshiped as their god. During the ceremony the lagoon was decorated with a raft of rushes, embellishing and adorning it with their most beautiful objects.

Four braziers lit in which was burned the moque, which is the incense of these natives, as well as resin and many other perfumes. The lagoon was wide and deep, that can be sailed by boat by countless men and women richly dressed with beautiful feathers, plaques and gold crowns.

At that point the heir to the throne stripped of his clothes and anointed him with the slimy soil which then sprinkled gold dust and the whole body with the metal. He settled on the raft on which he lay still, and at his feet a large pile of gold and emeralds were offered to his god. Along with him, rode on the boat four influential people entirely dressed in feathers, crowns, bracelets, pendants and earrings in pure gold.

They too were naked, and each was holding an offer. When the raft left the shore, began music with trumpets, flutes and other instruments, accompanied by songs that rattled the mountains and valleys, until, when the boat reached the center of the lagoon, and they raised a flag to impose hush. Indium Gold covered then made his offer, throwing all the gold in the middle of the lake and the nobles who were escorting him did the same with their gifts.

To symbolize this passage the Zipa, high priest of the tribe of the Chibcha played a unique ceremony. Completely naked, he was covered with a special resin called Varniz de Pasto. Then he was blown with the gold dust through a small blowpipe. So the bright and gilded king reached the center of Lake Guatavita, and he gave himself when the sun was at its zenith. At that time his subjects threw votive objects in the waters of all kinds, often made of gold. With this ceremony the new ruler was received and recognized as the king.

El Dorado was the magnet that attracted adventurers, explorers, aristocrats and even led some European bankers to finance migration which moved to discover the place where hid this golden man. Today it is known that this town was Muisca and the place where the ceremony was held would have been the lagoon of Guatavita (Colombia). The news of the wealth in Muisca attracted expeditions to the Savannah of Bogota originating in Quito (Ecuador), Santa Marta (Colombia) and Coro (Venezuela).

The ceremony of El Dorado began the legend. Although they had already taken possession of several hundred pounds of gold belonging to the Muisca and their neighbors, the conquistadors were convinced that the best was still to come, in the form of the inestimable treasure lying, according to them, on the bottom of Lake Guatavita.

The history of the offerings of gold and emeralds also led to the first attempts to drain the sacred lagoons of the Muiscas, although they were found the precious objects that included a golden breastplate, a stick covered with gold plates and one big emerald as a hen's egg. Soon the hunt for legendary, unimaginable riches spread beyond the borders of Lake Guatavita.

The supposed existence of a golden kingdom motivated numerous expeditions and remained in force until the nineteenth century, although its location moved from Colombia to the Guianas, as the process of conquest and colonization of the South American territory progressed. In half a century, the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru were sacrificed due to the greed of the conquistadors.

High in the Colombian Andes inland expeditions were organized to plunder the rich tombs of the Sinu Indians and in 1539 the Europeans penetrated for the first time in the territory of the Muisca and founded the city of Bogotá.

The history of the great riches of South America begins in Panama, when the conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa undertakes the first expeditions into the interior of the isthmus. In their way, the Spaniards cross with the tribe of the Comagre Indians, from which they receive slaves and some gold, among other things. The first Gold, of which it is recorded was the mythical hill of gold that supposedly was located in the valley of the Tayronas, aboriginal warriors that dominated to the other tribes of the region of Santa Marta.

The American Indians, who made extensive use of gold jewelry made the Spaniards think that they have come close to a mythical place where rich gold material needs were satisfied. One of the first Spaniards to seek a mythical place was Juan Ponce de León, who in 1513 tried in Florida the fountain of youth, the legend that had its origins in the medieval Romance of Alexander.

Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro after conquering Aztec and Inca empires believed to have arrived in this legendary place but then their thirst for power and wealth led them to continue the search. When Sebastiano Caboto was in charge, in 1525, an expedition that had as its aim the search for Peru, his lieutenants, including Francisco Cesar penetrated into the interior of Rio de la Plata, and maybe they came to the border of Bolivia.

On their return he spreads a legend, which told of a rich city, paved in gold, which they had failed to do for very little. This city was called Ciudad de los Cesares. Pedro de Heredia plundered gold of the Sinu for many years and tried mine or a mythical city, which for him was located on the border of the current department of Córdoba and Antioquia (Colombia). Diego de Ordaz sailed up the Rio Orinoco in 1531 in search of a city of gold, but could not find, although some natives told him later in the forest there was emerald mountains.

The legend of El Dorado reached a turning point when the Spanish conqueror Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and Sebastian de Belalcazar heard of an indigenous leader who plunged into a lagoon covered with gold dust and threw the gold offers in the depths of the waters. A unique case in history as three conquistadors had come at once and in different ways in the same place, attracted by the gold chimera. Quesada came first from the north-west, from the south Belalcazar and Federmann finally from the northeast. It was plundered by Quesada. Subsequently, the El Dorado was sought in the depths of the Amazon jungle by the explorer Francisco de Orellana, but was never found.

The El Dorado legend was alive even in North America, as Francisco Vazquez de Coronado tried along the Seven Cities of Cibola but never find them. In 1560 the bloodthirsty Lope de Aguirre took command, killing Pedro de Ursúa, an expedition in the Amazon jungle, and proclaimed himself King of the Amazon. The expedition was aimed at the El Dorado research, but ended tragically as Lope de Aguirre was executed in Venezuela.

According to legend, the Incas could have hidden it in an underground city, when Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru, and again they would live. Also recently many archaeologists and geographers seek remains of an ancient civilization in the Peruvian jungle, near a waterfall that was called Paititi.

In addition, another hypothesis argues there are many golden city, although in different places. However, the most common recordings of them are located in the northern center coordinates equal to the Andes or even in the Yucatan. In 2010 thanks to the study of satellite images and aerial photographs were discovered on the border between Brazil and Bolivia, a set of geoglyphs once held up as the remains of El Dorado.