Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by eve. eve Wonders, “Is EL Dorado real ?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, eve!
Throughout time, many explorers have set out with a purpose. Beyond seeing what was out there, they were usually searching for something special.
Some explorers wanted to conquer lands for their home countries. Others sought out riches, particularly gold. In fact, the search for gold led many explorers to South America. There, they looked in vain for a lost 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. It’s said to sit deep within South America. And of course, it’s the source of untold riches, mainly in the form of gold. Experts believe, though, that the El Dorado myth evolved over time. They think that El Dorado actually began as a man, not a place.
The ancient Muisca people lived deep in the Andes Mountains. Their civilization sat in what is now Colombia. The Muisca people had a special tradition when a new king rose to power. The king 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. This was thought to please an underwater god.
Spanish explorers who arrived in the early 16th century heard about the Muisca people and their 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 was not there.
This led the Spanish to decide that Lake Guatavitá was not the place they were looking for. So they continued to search for a city that ultimately did not exist. In this way, the myth of El Dorado grew from a man to a place of great riches.
For the next century, many people looked for El Dorado. Some famous explorers even joined in on the search. This included Gonzalo Pizarro, Francisco de Orellana, and Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh even made two separate trips to Guyana looking for El Dorado.
In the end, El Dorado, the city of untold riches, never existed. El Dorado, the man, did exist. His homeland near Lake Guatavitá was found, but it did not contain the mythical riches that explorers sought.
What do you think of the legend of El Dorado? Wouldn’t it be amazing to see an entire city made of gold? That may not be possible, but the legend itself still fascinates many people. What other fantastic places would you like to explore?
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2