The Muisca raft
|Material||Gold, Silver and copper|
|Size||19.5 cm x 10.1 cm|
|Created||600 - 1600|
|Discovered||1969 near Pasca|
|Present location||Gold Museum, Bogota|
The Muisca raft (Balsa Muisca in Spanish), sometimes referred to as the El Dorado Raft, is an artistic figure of pre-Colombian gold votive, drafted by the Muisca who established one of the four grand civilisations in the Americas on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense in the Eastern Ranges of the Colombian Andes. The piece is exhibited at the Gold Museum in Bogota. It is estimated that the figure was drawn between 600 and 1600 AD by lost-wax casting in gold with a small amount of copper.
The figure refers to the ceremony of the legend of El Dorado. It represents the ceremony of investiture of the Muisca chief, which used to take place at Lake Guatavita. During this ritual, the heir to the chieftainship (zipa) covered his body with gold dust and jumped into the lake along with gold offerings and emeralds to the gods. The piece has a base in the shape of a log boat with dimensions of 19.5 cm x 10.1 cm and various figures on the raft, the largest figure that stands in the middle apparently represents the chief, which is adorned with headdresses, nose rings and earrings, measuring 10.2 cm and is surrounded by his soldiers who carry banners.
The raft was found by three farmers in early 1969 in a cave in the village of Lázaro Fonte in the municipality of Pasca (Cundinamarca), Colombia in a ceramic pot, adorned with a human figure whose face has sharp teeth. The priest of the municipality protected the piece until it was acquired by Bogota's Gold Museum and where it has become one of its major exhibition pieces. It has never left Colombia.
Thus, the raft contains approximately 7.38 troy ounces (229 grams) of gold.