When we try to visit the Gold Museum of Santa Marta the day before our hike up to Ciudad Perdida, we find out that a visit is only possible with an appointment because of the Covid pandemic. We immediately make one for when we come back from our exploration of the Lost City and the Guajira peninsula. After cleaning our hands and showing the reservation, we opt for walking through the museum without guide. Almost all signs are bilingual. After having seen the Ciudad Perdida, the most important pre-hispanic site in Colombia, and some black-and-white pictures of treasures found there, we are curious to see them in real life. And we are not disappointed. Right at the ground level, we see room after room with precious golden artefacts found all over the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Unfortunately, there is no indication of the site where the various objects have been found.
We learn about different periods in the pre-hispanic history of the Sierra Nevada cultures, which are often just all thrown under the Tayrona label. The oldest culture were the Nahuange, which lasted from 200 to 900CE, followed by the Tayrona until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. They both produced artefacts of various materials, and their skills improved over time. Human and anthropomorphic figures were the most common objects. The exposition in this museum has plenty of them: birds, frogs, feline figures, bats. We learn about the famous batmen, which were considered to be very powerful. We see beautiful golden ornaments for both men and women, and try to imagine seeing the current tribes, the descendants of the Tairona people wearing those and the impression that would make.
We realise that much, much more gold was produced over the centuries, but that much of it has been robbed, first by the Spaniards, and then robbers looting the treasures from the ruins of old cities. Ciudad Perdida, after all, was heavily looted between 1972-1976 before the government even knew about its existence. After having enjoyed the exhibition on the ground floor, we walk up the stairs to see the very different expositions upstairs. This is about the more recent history, it is about the independence struggle and the role of Simon Bolívar, who died nearby and whose body was placed on bier in this same Casa de las Aduanas before he was buried in Venezuela. We learn about the rich history of this colonial building, which was a residence, a hotel, an office for various companies, and only in 2014 turned into a museum. We also see a section about the Wiwa, the Kogi, and the other tribes living around Sierra Nevada, the same fascinating tribes we have seen on our hike up to Ciudad Perdida. Our hour is up: time in the museum is limited because of the pandemic.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Museo del Oro Tairona (Colombia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Museo del Oro Tairona. Read more about this site.