Beyond El Dorado: Power and Gold in ancient Columbia

On Sunday we went to this fabulous exhibition at the British Museum. It was a bit off my usual modern art track but when American Airlines, travel partners of the exhibition, invited me to go along I jumped at the chance. It’s been years since I’ve been to the British Museum.  It’s a great place for families. Etta and Jasper loved running around in the great court.

My 3 year old was a little scared of the darkened gallery so I told her we were going to look at treasure – which wasn’t far from the truth. The exhibition features over 200 fascinating objects from Museo del Oro, Bogotá, and around 100 from the British Museum’s collection.

Mask with nose ornament - GP approved

Mask with nose ornament, Colombia, Quimbaya, 100 BC–AD 1600. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

El Dorado – literally “the golden one” – actually refers to the ritual that took place at Lake Guatavita, near modern Bogotá. The newly elected leader, covered in powdered gold, dived into the lake and emerged as the new chief of the Muisca people who lived in the central highlands of present-day Colombia’s Eastern Range. This stunning exhibition displays some of the fascinating objects excavated from the lake in the early 20th century including ceramics and stone necklaces.

Anthropomorphic pectoral

Anthropomorphic pectoral, Colombia, Tairona, AD 900–1600. © Museo del Oro – Banco de la República, Colombia.

I was immediately struck by the influence these artefacts have had on modern design. Jewellery and ceramic designers have a lot to be thankful for. The craftsmanship and metal working skills are exquisite. I thoroughly recommend this exhibition – especially if you don’t have children and you can linger over each piece without distraction.

Poporo (lime flask) in the shape of seated female figure - GP approved

Poporo (lime flask) in the shape of seated female figure, Colombia, Quimbaya, AD 600–1100. © The Trustees of the British Museum

17 October 2013 – 23 March 2014
Room 35

Sponsored by Julius Baer
Additional support provided by American Airlines.
aa.com

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