Bogota, Gold Museum

(continuer en français) – Published: November 29, 2020

It is an astonishing coincidence that several civilisations throughout the world, without contact with each other, have been able to consider gold as a metal with a higher value than other metals.

The search for gold played a central role in the colonisation of South America by Spain and Portugal. Even before the exploitation of the mining deposits, the systematic plundering of existing artistic and cultural objects was organised in order to supply the monetary production. This collection unfortunately caused the irreversible loss of several centuries of creation. Fortunately, many artefacts have escaped from the greed and are now being found in archaeological excavations.

Tombs are the main source of these recovered objects. The deceased being accompanied by part of their possessions. The museum also presents a mummy, in the traditional sitting position. This position is rather disturbing as it is more associated with life, whereas the dead are generally depicted lying down.

The Gold Museum in Bogotá has collected the best archaeological finds in Colombia and presents a complete history of the use of the precious metal in the various regions of the country. In addition to the gold objects, other works are shown to reconstitute the artistic context.

Some themes are highlighted, resulting, if not in serial productions, at least in a constant repetition in time and space of given productions. The juxtaposition of these series creates an additional spectacular effect.

The museum seeks to identify the different uses of gold, whether to demonstrate wealth or power, its association with the sacred for religion and the accompaniment of death in the grave. This leads to the study of the whole of Colombian culture over several centuries, highlighting regional differences. From the Andes to the Amazon, from the mountains to the coast, geographical diversity has fostered the differentiation of traditions.

Through the objects presented, it is possible to follow the evolution of artistic taste in human representation. Fidelity to the model does not seem to be the dominant idea, instead some features tend to be exaggerated with the intention of expressing something.

The most precious piece in the collection, the Muisca raft, is associated with the myth of El Dorado. It has a dedicated space, installed under a thick glass case with reduced light that does not make it easy to take photos. It is a representation of a ceremonial raft used during the enthronement of a new chief. According to tradition, the chief was covered in gold for the ceremony and offerings, sometimes in gold, were thrown into the lake. This is where they were found.

On the whole, the collections are displayed in glass cases offering good visibility. Explanations in Spanish are almost always translated into English, without being too cumbersome. Guided tours are also available for those who wish to delve more deeply into the subject.

The Gold Museum is part of the Bank of the Republic of Colombia. Several other cities in the country are also provided with branches of the museum, which allows the exhibitions of the many objects accumulated in the collections to be rotated. In Bogotá, the museum is located in downtown Bogotá in a modern building designed for this presentation.

On the top floor the work of the archaeologists is presented in a didactic manner, walking over reconstructions of excavations covered with glass panels.

Windows are scarce, although there is a gallery overlooking Santander Park to keep in touch with the outside and check the weather before going out.

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12 comments

    • You are right, before the advent of modern production tools, all stages of manufacturing required a lot of time and human effort. This meant that other people had to provide the food, which made craftsmanship dependent on the existence of a minimum of collective organisation.

      Liked by 1 person

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