Eldorado (Spanish for El Dorado "Golden " ) is a legendary land of gold in the interior of northern South America. Originally designated the name " El Dorado " a man, later a town and then a whole country. Other (indigenous ) names for these mythological place are eg Manoa or Omoa.

Eldorado is based on a Colombian legend who woke adventure among the conquistadors of the 16th century and why numerous expeditions have been aligned to the unexplored central South America. Spanish chroniclers since the 17th century about the supposed land of gold.


Each new ruler of the Muisca ( a Chibcha people ) did when he took office a sacrifice to the sun god in the mountain lake of Guatavita near the present-day Bogotá dar. night were lit bonfires, and the naked body of the prince was coated with a paste of gold dust. Together with four nobles drove the prince on a raft to the middle of the lake. The raft was loaded with many gold objects and precious stones. The companions sacrificed these objects by throwing them into the water. Then the king jumped into the sea, and the gold dust on his body fell, along with emeralds and gold, which threw the mitgefahrenen nobles as a victim in the lake, on the ground. Another variation is the king, wash the gold at the edge of the lake after the ceremony.

As a piece of evidence for the legend is true the gold raft of Eldorado.

Origin of the myth

With the arrival of the Spaniards the Muisca tradition was long gone exercised, but the stories of captured Muisca fueled the greed of the conquistadors after the supposedly gigantic treasure. In particular, the writings of Rodriguez Freyle, which was based on descriptions of Don Juan, the nephew of the last ruler of the region around Guatavita, contributed to that developed the legend of the legendary land of gold, El Dorado. So was the search for Eldorado even one of the key drivers for the exploration and conquest of South America by the Spaniards.

In reality, however, this legend was born in 1541 in Quito, until several years after the Muisca by the Spanish adventurer Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada had been defeated.


The Spaniards laid Eldorado with the period from lake Guatavita to different places. Eldorado time was a huge temple, sometimes a sunken city in the jungle, and in 1595 reported the English sailor and adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh of the fabulously wealthy kingdom " Eldorado ", which he guessed somewhere between the Amazon and Peru.

  • In the 16th century Eldorado (now Venezuela) " moved " in the Spanish Guayana to the lake Parime.
  • In the 1540ern Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Orellana Eldorado searched the river basin of South America. In their Zimtland expedition discovered the Amazon.

Enlightenment by Humboldt

In particular, Alexander von Humboldt was with his travelogue (Venezuela 1800 ) in clarifying and correcting the myth incurred in the course of its geographical error. He writes:

"In Europe, no longer a man of the treasures in Guyana and to the Empire of the Great Patiti believes. The city of Manoa and its covered with massive gold plates palaces have long since disappeared; but the geographical apparatus with which the legend of El Dorado was dressed up, the lake Parime in which, as in the lake in Mexico, so many magnificent buildings reflected, was maintained scrupulously by geographers. Over the course of three centuries, the same word suffered various transformations; from ignorance of the American languages ​​held to rivers to lakes and carrying places for Flußverzweigungen; you drew a lake ( the Cassipa ) to south, while ( the Parime or Dorado ) offset on the eastern to 5 degrees of latitude too far another hundred miles off the western shore of the Rio Branco. By such various transformations is the problem that is before us here, has become far more complicated than is commonly believed. "

The reason for the centuries -lasting mistake Humboldt also points to the geographers of his time:

"The progress of geography, to the extent they identify themselves on the maps are far slower than it should according to the quantity of useful results that are scattered in the literatures of the various peoples who believe. Astronomical observations, topographic, lists pile up for many years without being used, and from otherwise very lobenswerthem conservatism want the cartographer often prefer to bring anything new, than to sacrifice a lake, a mountain range or a river network, which can now even centuries has shown. "