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British Museum puts on El Dorado exhibition

The reality behind El Dorado, South America’s mythical city of gold and whether it existed is all set to be revealed. 

The world famous British Museum said on Thursday that the truth behind this myth is fascinating. 
It says El Dorado - literally ‘the golden one’ - actually refers to the ritual that took place at Lake Guatavita, near modern Bogota. 

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. 
The Museum is now opening a stunning exhibition that will for the first time ever display some of the fascinating objects excavated from the lake in the early 20th century including ceramics and stone necklaces. 

In ancient Colombia, gold was used to fashion some of the most visually dramatic and sophisticated works of art found anywhere in the Americas before European contact. 

This exhibition will feature over 300 exquisite objects drawn from the Museo del Oro in Bogota, one of the best and most extensive collections of Pre-Hispanic gold in the world, as well as from the British Museum’s own unique collections. 

Through these exceptional objects the exhibition will explore the complex network of societies in ancient Colombia - a hidden world of distinct and vibrant cultures spanning 1600 BC to AD 1700 - with particular focus on the Muisca, Quimbaya, Calima, Tairona, Tolima and Zenu chiefdoms. 

The Museum said on Thursday although gold was not valued as currency in pre-Hispanic Colombia, it had great symbolic meaning. It was one way the elite could publicly assert their rank and semi-divine status, both in life and in death. The objects reveal glimpses of these cultures’ spiritual lives including engagement with animal spirits though the use of gold objects, music, dancing, sunlight and hallucinogenic substances that all lead to a physical and spiritual transformation enabling communication with the supernatural. 

Animal iconography is used to express this transformation in powerful pieces demonstrating a wide range of imaginative works of art, showcasing avian pectorals, necklaces with feline claws or representations of men transforming into spectacular bats though the use of profuse body adornment.  The exhibition will also explore the sophisticated gold working techniques, including the use of tumbaga, an alloy composed of gold and copper. 
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