More than 300 objects made from gold and other precious materials reveal the extraordinary metalworking skill of the peoples of ancient Colombia.

Historian Bettany Hughes presents our video-tour of the exhibition.

The legend of El Dorado has enraptured audiences for centuries, sometimes imagined as a lost city of gold, sometimes as a man covered in powdered gold who plunged into the middle of Lake Guatavita.

In actuality, pre-Hispanic Colombia was a hive of metalwork activity, its people highly skilled in sophisticated goldworking techniques.

Unlike in Europe, gold was not valued as currency and instead had great symbolic meaning, being used by the elite to publicly assert their rank, both in life and in death.

With a focus on the craftsmanship of peoples known as the Muisca, Quimbaya, Calima and Tairona, the exhibition also looks at how gold was associated with rituals of hallucinogenic transformation and engagement with animal spirits.

British Museum

Great Russell Street, London, Greater London, WC1B 3DG

020 7323 8181


Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5.30pm (Fri until 8.30pm)

Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

Free to all

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