Since the first European conquistadors set foot on American soil, the search for riches was the main motivation for their expeditions. The El Dorado legend became very popular as a distant land full of gold and precious stones of exotic nature. As the Spaniards approached Muisca territory in 1537, they began to hear rumours of a ceremony where a great chieftain covered in gold dust threw large quantities of gold and emeralds to the bottom of lake Guatavita. The Muiscas had in fact been making offerings for a very long time in different lakes of the region -Siecha, Iguaque, Guasca and Teusacá - and these ceremonies were made according to sowing and harvest times and by the movements of the stars.
Before contact was made with Europe, and based on the accounts made by Spanish chroniclers, we know that upon the death of the Muisca chieftain, the nephew in line as head chieftain was recognized by his people in a ceremony that took place on a lake. It included sailing on a raft made of wood, with the offering of gold and emerald pieces thrown into the lake. With the discovery of this piece in the shape of a ceremonial raft, we confirm that this ceremony did take place, yet it was not found in Guatavita Lake.
The original Muisca raft was found in Pasca Cundinamarca in 1969, consists of a central large size and extremely important person placed in the center of the raft: he has been interpreted as the chieftain. He wears very rich ornaments and is surrounded by twelve smaller characters. Some carry banners and canes; the ones in the front are wearing masks of jaguars and wizard maracas on their wrists and the very small ones, placed around the edges of the raft, may be recognized as rowers.
This raft was cast in one solid piece of gold, using the lost wax technique in a clay mould. It is made of extremely pure gold (over 80%) with native silver and copper alloy. It is impossible to determine the exact date it was manufactured, but very possibly it belongs to the late period of the Muisca culture between 1,200 and 1,500 AD. Pasca, together with Guatavita, was populated with craftsmen, and therefore it is likely that this extraordinary piece was manufactured there.
24K Gold Plated Replica: the Musica Raft