Ancient Colombian gold at the British Museum
November 13, 2013 | by Carolin C. Young | Anthropomorphic bat pectoral, 900–1600. Gold. © El Museo del Oro del Banco de la Republica, Bogotá, Colombia, on view at the British Museum, London.
The British Museum this season proves that gold has more to it than mere sparkle in a major exhibition devoted to the metal’s uses and meanings in pre-Hispanic Colombia. Including more than three hundred objects from both the Museo del Oro in Bogotá and the British Museum’s own permanent collection, the show explodes Europe’s centuries-old myth that El Dorado was a lost city of gold. It starts off by correcting this misconception with an exploration of the ceremony through which the elected chief of the Muisca people was consecrated into his new role by diving into Lake Guatavita covered in powdered gold and rising out of it as “the Golden One”—El Dorado. This particular case study introduces a far wider reaching investigation into the meanings and uses of gold from 1600 bc to ad 1700 in the region that also includes the Quimbaya, Calima, Tairona, and Zenú chiefdoms. The exhibition also illuminates the techniques used to create these astounding objects. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Beyond El Dorado: Power and Gold in Ancient Colombia • British Museum, London • to March 23, 2014 • britishmuseum.org