Archaeologists in Columbia made a pretty significant discovery when they found eight ceramic jars that contained several metal figurines with emeralds inside of them. What’s even more astonishing is that these items are connected to El Dorado – the mythical lost city of gold.
These jars were discovered during excavations where a temple and graves were found in an ancient town near Columbia’s capital of Bogotá. The jars, which are called ofrendatarios, were created by the ancient Muisca people (they are also known as Chibcha) who were well known for their exceptional metal-crafting skills. In fact, their famous works have been linked to the mythical lost gold city of El Dorado.
The jars and figurines date back approximately 600 years. The figurines were in a variety of shapes, such as snakes, other different animals, and even people wearing headdresses with weapons and staffs. There may have been a connection between the items and the temple in which they were found as explained by archaeologist Francisco Correa, “It's very difficult to establish, I think there was some type of cult of the ancestors.” They could have been used as an offering and they could have possibly been made in reference to deities that were worshipped by the Muisca people.
They had to make trades with other groups in order to obtain gold because there weren’t any gold mines near them. Their goldwork was so magnificent that they were referenced to the golden city of El Dorado. The Muisca people had a tradition where the chief would be covered in an ointment that contained gold particles during specific ceremonies which were apparently some of the “...motivations of this [El Dorado] myth” as noted by Correa. Actually, the Spanish watched these ceremonies take place and they even recorded them in ancient chronicles (as well as mentioning their goldwork) which helped to influence the myth.
The Spanish took over the region between the years 1537 and 1540 which caused many of the Muisca people to die during the battle or from diseases. While many lives were lost, the Muisca people did continue to inhabit the area and there are still people today who are descendants of them.
Pictures of the jars, figurines, and emeralds can be seen here.