Bogotá, Colombia has some of the nation’s top museums, which makes sense, as it is the capital of the country. If you get a chance to visit Colombia’s largest city, make sure to check out El Museo del Oro. The Museo del Oro (Gold Museum/Museum of Gold, in English) is located in in Santander Park, on the corner of Carrera 5 (5th Avenue) and Calle 16 (16th Street), in downtown Bogotá.
The Museo del Oro is one of several museos del Banco de la República (museums of the Bank of the Republic), the state-run central bank of Colombia. In addition to its traditional roles such as issuing and controlling currency and regulating the exchange rate, the Banco de la República also manages several cultural institutions, such as this Museo del Oro, as well as the Luis Ángel Arango Library.
The Museo del Oro houses an impressive collection, the largest in the world, of gold and pre-Hispanic artifacts from Colombia and its neighboring nations. The Gold Museum also exhibits pottery, stone, shell, wood and textile archaeological objects, over 55,000 pieces in all. Most items and artifacts on display have a bilingual description written, in both Spanish and English.
One of the Museo’s prized possessions, the Balsa Muisca (Muisca raft) is housed within. The Muisca were Chibcha-speaking people that resided in what is now Colombia’s Eastern Range. The Spanish Empire encountered them first in 1537, during their conquest. The Muisca raft portrays what is thought to be the ceremony of the legend of El Dorado, representing the ceremony of investiture of the Muisca chief, which would happen at Lake Guatavita. During this ritual, the heir to the chieftainship, the cacique (located in the center of this raft surrounded by 12 others), covered his body with gold dust and jumped into Lake Guatavita with offerings of gold and emeralds (two of Colombia’s rich natural resources) to the gods. The cacique, or chief, is adorned here with a headdress, nose rings and earrings, and is surrounded by some soldiers who carry banners. Some of the other fingers towards the edges of the raft carry staffs, and the two at the front wear jaguar masks and carry shaman maracas in their hands. The other, smaller figures, on the sides, are oarsmen. The Muisca raft was found by three farmers in 1969 in a cave in the village of Lázaro Fonte, which is in the Cundinamarca municipality of Pasca.
Aside from its centerpieces of the pre-Columbian and pre-Hispanic artifacts, the museum also has halls dedicated to many of the myriad cultures that once graced the land that is now Colombia, such as the peoples of Calima, Quimbaya, Zenu, Tierradentro, San Augustín, Tayrona, and Uraba, and several more. There is also a room called Despues de Colón (After Columbus), with a history of how the Spanish conquest irreversibly changed the playing field.
Museo del Oro (website)
Calle 16 # 5-41 (On one side of the Parque Santander, corner of Carrera 5 and 16th Street)
☎ (571) 343 22 22
Tue – Sat 9 am – 6 pm, Sun and Public Holidays 10 am – 4 pm.
Last exit 1 hr after closing. Closed Mondays.
3,000 COP, Adults; Free Sundays.
Children under 12, Adults over 60, Free.