Man has always been tempted by the aristocracy of golden treasures. It is in human nature to fall in the traps of heaven offered by gold, but be eventually succumbed into its own downfall. The mythical wonder of El Dorado is one of the many examples to prove the fact.
The word “El Dorado” implies “The Golden One”- a name given to the chief of ancient muisca tribes in present day Columbia. The accounts states that the new chief, before taking office as the head of the tribe used to coat himself with gold powders and sail to the middle of the Lake Guatavita in a raft along with four principal subject chiefs. The king covered from tip to toe in the precious metal would offer the demon god with emerald and gold that were taken in heaps with them. An expensive offering to appease the god they feared. The tribal chief would then swim back meanwhile washing away all the gold powder. The golden articles would be deposited at the bottom of the holy lake forever.
The Spanish conquistadors had noticed the ostentatious gold and silver artifacts of the native people, long before any legend of golden or “lost cities” had reached them. Its prevalence and the native people’s ignorance about its actual value triggered a suspicion of possibility of a plentiful source. Prior to the legend of the city of gold, numerous exploring campaigns had been set towards the east of the Andes Mountains to find cinnamons, gold, emeralds and other things of value. It also includes expeditions from the german conquistador Ambrosius Ehinger, spanish explorer Diego de Ordaz and Sir Walter Raleigh. Majority saw futility and unnacountable loss of lives on encounter with the natives.
The legend however has resulted in relentless excavations to uncover what lays at the bottom of Lake Guatavita. Most expeditions into the depth of the continent turned out to be fruitless except for some unexpected discoveries. Among further campaigns Gonzalo Jimenez de Queseda is credited with finding the muisca tribe for the first time. His younger brother Hernan explored the Orinoco basin without result. However the muisca belongings that fell into their hand inspired further efforts. Fransisco Pizzaro and Fransisco de Orellana, in their exploration to find cinnamon and gold among the native tribes led to the discovery of Amazon River. In the later parts of the excavation campaigns and after spotting the Lake Guatavita various attempts were introduced for the purpose of retracting the gold the legend promised. It ranged from primitive unyielding methods to much more mechanised ways. However the amount of gold recovered didn’t provide evidence of a thriving golden settlement. The legend went down in the pages of the history as a lie.
It was in twentieth century that a golden raft was found in a cave near muisca settlement. It exactly fitted the description of the legend. Further, the forest floor showed canals running towards agricultural fields. The soil was a dark mixture of sand, charcoal and shell which helped in holding the nutrients. Also the soil was far more productive than any known fertilizers. It was concluded that there were no gold mines but the gold came from the trade as a result of their superior productivity. But the disappearance of such a settlement (if it ever existed) is still a mystery.
The legend of El Dorado is one of the most illustrious examples of greed and devastating results. However it has been insinuated in the world of literature as one of the most appreciated metaphors. A metaphor used to designate untold riches and unachievable paradise. It is used to describe anything which cannot be attained. Anything whose journey itself is to no avail.
The eerily impossible existence of El Dorado will be remembered as poet Edgar Allan Poe described:
” Over the mountains of the moon, down the valley of the shadow, ride, boldly ride… if you seek for El Dorado.”