Beyond El Dorado: Power and Gold in Ancient Colombia

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British Museum

Until Sun Mar 23

  • © British Museum

    Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

  • © British Museum

    Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

  • © British Museum

    Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

  • © British Museum

    Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

  • © British Museum

    Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

  • © British Museum

    Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

  • © British Museum

    Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

© British Museum

Beyond El Dorado at The British Museum.

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Curated London

El Dorado was a myth that fascinated European explorers: to some it was a lost city of gold, to others it was a man covered in the stuff. Organised in collaboration with Museo del Oro, Bogotá, this dazzling show at the British Museum explores six pre-colonial regions of what we now call Columbia through their relationship with this iconic precious metal. Spanning the period 1600 BC to 1600 AD, Beyond El Dorado reveals the value attributed to gold by the indigenous people of the region. While never used as currency (as it was in Europe), gold held significant spiritual and cultural value. It was used to demonstrate status and power when worn as jewellery or used as ornamental decoration. Accordingly, there are no coins in this exhibition: instead, there are body decorations and piercings, masks and ornaments, vessels and containers. Unlike most metals, gold does not tarnish or degrade, and so it can last in the ground for centuries without damage. The characteristic it does share with other metals, though, is that it is impossible to date accurately (hence the wide date ranges attributed to many of the artefacts on display). The curators have used ceramics and other durable objects to give an idea of age, as well as to provide context and meaning for the pieces on display. The result is a fascinating insight into another culture. The Museum is to be commended for sensitively addressing the impact of colonialism, as well as showing how the traditions and customs of the region have been maintained in the present day. For more of the latest art reviews, check out www.curatedlondon.co.uk