El Dorado, The Lost City Of Gold

By | November 10, 2019

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Depiction of El Dorado. Source: (historycollection.com)

From the California Gold Rush to the search for Captain Kidd’s lost treasure, the pursuit of gold, whether mythical or real, has inspired countless expeditions throughout history. The hunt for El Dorado is no exception. Rumors of this legendary lost city of gold go back centuries and were so convincing that it even appeared on maps at one time, despite the fact that the city has never been found.

The term, el dorado, is Spanish for “the golden one” and is connected to the Muisca tribe, also known as the Chibcha tribe, which has existed in Central Columbia since the 9th century. For the Muisca tribe, the golden one was not a city but a man, specifically the tribal chief. During the initiation ceremony, the new chief would be covered in gold dust and taken out on a raft to the center of Lake Guatavita, where he would cast precious jewels and gold into the lake as an offering to the gods. Other descriptions of the ceremony claim that the chief actually submerged himself in the lake to wash off the gold dust.

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Lake Guatavita & Cuchavira. Source: (Wikipedia)

When the Spanish Explorers arrived in the 16th century, they heard tales of the initiation and begin to refer to the tribal chief as El Dorado. By that time, the practice had ended, but the Europeans had already discovered so much gold among the Incas and the Aztecs that they believed the Chibcha tribe to be concealing a great treasure. In 1545, they even tried to drain Lake Guatavita to get to the treasure and did, in fact, find a significant amount of gold, but they believed it to be only a fraction of the real treasure located at its depths. As a result, El Dorado eventually came to be associated with a hidden city of gold.