Courtesy of: Museo Del Oro / Bogota, Colombia
Colombia, one of Latin Americas riches countries in natural resources is located in the northwest of South America. Washed by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and by the Pacific to the west, like a spinal column, the chain of the Andes Mountains stretches up from the south of the continent forming three fertile branches with countless valleys, plateaus and hillsides inhabited by the majority of the present-day population. The total land area is 1,141,748 sq km (440,831 sq mi).
Colombia's varied topography also includes torrid lowlands; selvas (rain forests); and vast plains, or llanos. The principal river, the Magdalena, flows north across practically the entire country. Wildlife includes the larger South American mammals such as jaguars, pumas, and tapirs and monkeys, red deer, snakes, and birds. Colombia lies almost entirely in the Torrid Zone, between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The climate, however, varies with the elevation, with cooler temperatures at higher altitudes.
In ancient times this land was occupied by societies governed by chiefs. Gold, the sacred metal, adorned the political leaders and was used as offerings to the gods. In the southwest of Colombia, the cultures which archaeologists call Tumaco, Calima, Malagana, Cauca, San Agustín, Tierradentro, Nariño, Quimbaya and Tolima, were the first to work the metal they found in the rivers.
Around the beginning of our era these peoples lived in villages surrounded by fields. Trade and exchange routes ensured that ideas and news travelled from one region to another. However, the zenith of the southwestern cultures declined around A.D. 1000 and the territory was taken over by more populous egalitarian societies. When the European conquistadores arrived in 1500, goldwork was characteristic of the cultures to the north: Sinú, Urabá, Tairona, Muisca. Their styles, while distinct from one another, shared a preference for casting in tumbaga, an alloy of gold and copper.
Gold objects accompanied the dead in their tombs, and today bear witness to the spirit of the people who created them.