As a child, the Dreamworks animation, The Road to El Dorado, was a firm favourite of mine, full of adventure, history and silliness. When I saw the exhibiton on the myth advertised at the British Museum, I made sure that I quickly persuaded Adam to come along the next time we were in the capital.
It was disgustingly rainy in London and so I stomped into the Museum with my sodden feet, shivering as I went. The British Museum always takes me aback; the building itself is phenomenal architecturally and so you are blown away before you even get to the treasures it holds. After sauntering about some of the permanent displays, we headed up to the exhibition which is housed in the huge, central, cylindrical block in the middle of the courtyard.
My knowledge of El Dorado is limited to a cartoon film and so I was excited to learn something new. The exhibition looked at the role of gold in Columbian society pre-conquest. As you wander through the exhibit you realise how important it was in the daily lives and rituals of the ancient civilisations that lived there. I particularly enjoyed watching the video’s which demonstrated how these objects were created.
Having not studied this period, I found the information fresh and exciting. When new rulers were to be initiated, the were rolled in mud and covered in gold dust before sailing into a lagoon to make their golden offerings to the Gods. I find little facts like this fascinating, how they open a small window into an alternate world.
Gold is the most exquisite thing… Truly, for gold [a man] can gain entrance for his soul into paradise – Christopher Columbus 1503
Columbus recognises the spiritual significance that gold had. Whereas for the Europeans who valued gold as currency, the locals prized its symbolic value.
The inhabitants of Colombia would decorate themselves with gold jewellery and decorative plates, and this often denoted status. However they decorated themselves with many other methods such as piercing or cutting themselves to create scarred patterns.
This is just a taster of what Beyond El Dorado has to offer. The information is consise but still engaging and offers great insight into a world and culture, so different from our own. The objects on display are beautiful and the craftsmanship involved is superb. The British Museum have really put together a fantastic work of art that really brings Ancient Colombia to life. It’s on till the 23rd March so you still have plenty of time to take a trip!