Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by eve. eve Wonders, “Is EL Dorado real ?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, eve!
Does it ever seem like there are no new frontiers to explore? With the power of satellites circling far above Earth, we're able to see and map basically every inch of Earth's surface. Scientists are even using technology to explore other planets and galaxies from afar.
While modern technology and progress are great, people who are explorers at heart sometimes yearn for a time when much of our planet was yet undiscovered. Have you ever wished you could set out on an expedition to parts unknown, uncertain of what you would find but guaranteed to be an adventure?
While wanderlust has been around since the beginning of human history, many explorers ventured out with a purpose. Beyond merely seeing what was out there, they were usually searching for something special.
Some explorers wanted to find new lands to claim for their home countries. Others sought out riches, particularly gold. In fact, the search for gold led many ancient explorers to seek in vain to find a lost South American city supposedly made of gold. What are we talking about? El Dorado, of course!
Over time, the myth of El Dorado came to represent a hidden city deep within South America that was the source of untold riches, mainly in the form of gold. Experts believe, though, that the El Dorado myth evolved over time and that El Dorado actually began as a man, not a place.
Deep in the Andes Mountains in what is now Colombia, the native Muisca people maintained a unique tradition: when a new king rose to power, he would coat himself in gold dust before diving into Lake Guatavitá. As part of the ceremony, gold and other precious jewels would be thrown into the lake to appease an underwater god.
Spanish explorers who arrived in the early 16th century heard about the Muisca people and their curious tradition. They even gave the king a name: El Dorado or "the gilded one." In 1545, they found Lake Guatavitá and tried to drain it. Although they did find hundreds of pieces of gold, the vast treasure they hoped for eluded them.
This led the Spanish to conclude that Lake Guatavitá must not be the place they were looking for. So they continued to search for an elusive place that ultimately did not exist. In this way, the myth of El Dorado grew from a man to a place of great riches.
For another century, thousands of explorers would search South America's jungles, mountains, and river valleys for El Dorado. Many of them would die on expeditions, unprepared for the dangers that awaited them.
Some of the famous explorers who searched for El Dorado included Gonzalo Pizarro, Francisco de Orellana, and Sir Walter Raleigh. In fact, Raleigh, the famous explorer who funded expeditions to the infamous Roanoke Island in North America, made two separate trips to Guyana in search of El Dorado.
In the end, El Dorado, the city of untold riches, never existed. El Dorado, the man, did exist and his tribe's homeland near Lake Guatavitá was found, but it did not contain the abundant riches that myths led explorers to believe existed.