It wasn't a city at all: a researcher explained what the legendary golden Eldorado looked like
The legendary Eldorado, whose treasures tempted the European conquerors of South America for centuries, most likely never existed as a golden city. In fact, the name Eldorado was used to describe a ritual involving a person covered in gold dust.
This is stated in a study published in the scientific journal Latin American Antiquity. Many explorers and gold hunters have tried to find the golden city in the Andes, but all of them failed.
Juan Pablo Quintero Guzmán, an archaeologist and curator of the world-famous Museo del Oro, explained that the myth of Eldorado originates from the 17th-century Spanish chronicler Juan Rodriguez Freyle. He described a coronation ceremony held by the Muisca people on Lake Guatavita, which is located in modern-day Colombia.
In this ceremony, the heir to the chief's throne had to spend six years fasting in a cave, after which he was sprinkled with gold dust and brought to the middle of the lake on a raft loaded with gold.
"The golden Indian made his offer by throwing all the gold he had into the lake," Freyle wrote.
The archaeologist explains that it was from this ceremony that the famous name Eldorado came from, which led to the hoax and subsequent search for a non-existent golden city.
Quintero Guzmán says that the first person to use the name Eldorado, provoking the gold rush, was the Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar, who designated the area around Lake Guatavita.
The ritual version, unlike the story of the city of gold, has real evidence.
For example, in 1912, British engineer Hartley Knowles recovered numerous gold items and other jewelry from the bottom of the lake. In 1969, a golden model of a raft was also found in a cave near the lake. It is still considered the most significant evidence of the ancient ritual.
According to IFLScience, Quintero Guzmán and his colleagues also explored the area around Lake Guatavita for artifacts that would indicate that large-scale ceremonial events were regularly held there. However, they were able to find 157 ceramic fragments only.
"The fact that these vessels appear to have contained the ancient alcoholic drink chicha indicates that they were indeed used during ceremonial events, but their small number suggests that the ritual events were not large-scale," Quintero Guzmán said in the study.
He suggests that the ritual was probably not repeated for centuries but was performed only for a certain time or even only once. Perhaps such a generous ritual was used in times of instability and was intended to show how strong the leader's power was or to gain the favor of the gods, but was later abandoned.
"When the Spaniards arrived, they met groups who had heard about the ceremony performed by their ancestors, and this is what they described to the conquistadors," the scientist summarized.
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