The Muisca- a civilization that thrived in and around the great Andes of South America. None of the people now will recognise their name. And the few who do, will remember them as the Indians who gave rise to the myth of 'El Dorado'- a city made entirely of gold. All the history buffs out there will very easily name the main Pre-Columbian civilizations- the Incas, the Maya and the Aztecs. But why do they forget about the Muisca? The bitter truth is, even where history is concerned, some sites hoard the spotlight. We talk about Chichen Itza all the time, yet why do we never consider Laguna de Guatavita? Here is a list of things that prove that the Muisca culture is indeed a significant one. 

MYTHOLOGY: Sure, Egyptian mythology is very intriguing, but the Muisca are no less. Lake Guatavita (Spanish: Laguna de Guatavita) is a lake near Bogota, where the tribespeople used to welcome their new chief or cacique. Sources stipulate that the chief, his body covered with gold dust, was rafted to the middle of the lake and therein he would wash it off while spectators looked on and threw trinkets into the water. Apparently, it was done to appease the serpent-god who lived under its placid waters.

THE VALUE OF GOLD: Unlike most other civilizations, the Muisca didn't see gold as currency. They saw it as a divine influence and named it mnya. In the words of British Museum curator Elisenda Vila Llonch, "In ancient Colombia, gold was a powerful metal, which not only allowed people to communicate with the supernatural and display one’s identity as a member of a community, but it also allowed you to gain a new one."

DEITIES: Like any other advanced race, the Muisca also had gods and goddesses. There were two main ones- Sué the sun-god and Chia the moon-goddess. Apart from that, there was Bochica, who was considered to be a hero and the saviour of the tribespeople. Then there was Bachue, the mother of the Muisca people. Her children populated the Altiplano Cundiboyacense and ultimately led to the rise of the Muisca civilization.

METALLURGY: Most of the gold that was obtained from trade was either used to make votive offerings or ornaments. Metallurgy in ancient Colombia was quite developed- alloys of gold, copper and silver were used to make offerings for the gods. In fact, several objects exist that display excellent craftsmanship- such as a man that is turning into a bat. The famous El Dorado raft is a good example of the advancement of metallurgy in the Andes.

INDIRECT EFFECTS: Gonzalo Pizzaro and Francisco de Orellana led an expedition towards Rio Coca in search of El Dorado. They didn't find the lost city, but are credited with finding the Amazon River. Beside that, the myth of El Dorado led to the discovery of important gold and emerald mines, cinnamon fields and even the mapping of Guyana. 

Don't you think the Muisca deserve as much fame as the Maya and the Incas enjoy? Sure, they didn't build pyramids, but they were as advanced a civilization as any other.


Featured Image: Balsa Muisca (El Dorado raft) By Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Muisca_raft_BOG_04_2012_Museo_de_Oro_1251.jpg