Chapter 1: El Dorado

…Nowadays Toledo is a quiet provincial city situated about an hour’s drive south of Madrid; yet hardly does a visitor to Spain miss seeing it, for within its walls there have been preserved the monuments of diverse cultures and the lessons of history.

…Its beginnings local legends tell, goes back two millennia before the Christian era and its foundation is attributed to the biblical descendants of Noah. Its name, many hold, comes from the Hebrew Toledoth ("Generational Histories"); its olden homes and magnificent houses of worship bear witness to the Christianization of Spain – the rise and fall of the Moors and their Moslem dominion and the uprooting of the splendid Jewish heritage.

…For Toledo, for Spain, and for all other lands, 1492 was a pivotal year, for a triple history was made therein. All three events took place in Spain, a land geographically known as "Iberia" – a name for which the only explanation can be found in the term Ibri ("Hebrew") by which its earlier settlers might have been known.

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile married in 1469… In January 1492 the Moors were decisively defeated with the fall of Granada, and Spain was made a Christian land. In March of that same year, the king and queen signed an edict for the expulsion from Spain, by July 31 of that year, of all Jews who would not convert to Christianity by that time. And on August 3 of that same year, Christopher Columbus – Cristobal Colon to the Spaniards – sailed under the Spanish flag to find a western route to India.

…It is now recognized that there had been much more to the voyage than a search for a new route to India. Strong evidence suggests that Columbus was a Jew forced into conversion; his financial backers, likewise converted, could have seen in the enterprise an avenue of escape to freer lands. Ferdinand and Isabella had visions of the discovery of the river of Paradise and everlasting youth. And Columbus himself had secret ambitions, only which some of them he expressed in his personal diaries. He saw himself as the fulfiller of ancient prophecies regarding a new age that shall begin with the discovery of new lands, "at the extremity of the Earth."

…But he was realistic enough to recognize that of all the information he had brought back from the first voyage, the mention of gold was the attention-getter… The inevitable conflicts (with various administrators the queen and king had appointed on Columbus voyages) culminated in the return of Columbus to Spain in chains, on the pretext that he had mistreated some of his men. Although the king and queen at once released him and offered him monetary compensation, they agreed with the view that Columbus was a good admiral but a bad governor – and clearly one who could not force out of the Indians the true location of the City of Gold.

…Columbus… He collected all the texts (ancient prophecies) into a book, The Book of Prophecies [1], which he presented to the king and queen. It was meant to convince them that Spain was destined to reign over Jerusalem, and that Columbus was the chosen one to achieve that by being the first to find the place where gold is born.

…Themselves believers in the Scriptures, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to let Columbus sail once more… This last voyage encountered more hardships and heartbreaks than any of the previous three.

…Queen Isabella died in November, 1504; Ferdinand… decided to let others act on the last memorandum prepared by Columbus… (now crippled with arthritis).

…Hispaniola will furnish your invincible majesties, with all the needed gold," Columbus assured his royal sponsors regarding the island that is nowadays shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. There, Spanish settlers using local Indians as slave labor, indeed succeeded in mining gold in fabulous quantities: in less than two decades the Spanish treasury received from Hispaniola gold equivalent to 500,000 ducats.

…As it turned out, the Spanish experience in Hispaniola was to repeat itself over and over again across an immense continent… In 1517 a purposeful convoy of three ships under Francisco Hernadez de Cordoba sailed to Yucatan from Cuba for the purpose of procuring slave labor. To their amazement they came upon stone buildings, temples, and idols of goddesses; to the misfortune of the local inhabitants (whom the Spaniards understood to have called themselves "Maya") the Spaniards also "found certain objects of gold, which they took."

…On another expedition to Yucatan they landed on the Island of Cozumel… They saw more stone edifices and monuments, felt the sting of arrows and spears tipped with sharp obsidian stone, and examined artfully made art objects. Many were made of stone, common or semiprecious; others shined as gold, but on close examination proved to be of copper. There were, contrary to expectations, very few gold objects, and there were absolutely no mines or other sources for gold, or any other metals, in the land.

…Where then had the gold, as little as there was, come from? They obtained it by trading, the Mayas said. It comes from the northwest: there, in the land of the Aztecs, it is plentiful and abundant.

…The discovery and conquest of the realm of the Aztecs, in the highland heartland of Mexico, is linked historically with the name of Hernando Cortes, (the year was 1519).

…It was there that to the Spaniard’s great astonishment emissaries of the Aztec ruler appeared offering greetings and bearing exquisite gifts.

…These were gifts, the emissaries explained, of their ruler Moctezuma to the divine Quetzal Coatl, the "Plumed Serpent" god of the Aztecs; a great benefactor who was forced long ago by the God of War to leave the land of the Aztecs. With a band of followers he went to Yucatan, and sailed off eastward, vowing to return on the day of his birth in the year "1 Reed." In the Aztec calendar, the cycle of years complete itself every fifty-two years, and therefore the year of the promised return, "1 Reed," could occur once in fifty-two years. In the Christian calendar these were the years 1363, 1415, 1467 – and 1519, precisely the year in which Cortes appeared from the waters on the east at the gateway of the Aztec domain. Bearded and helmeted as Quetzalcoatl was (some also held that the god was fair skinned), Cortes seemed to fulfill the prophecies.

"…Whether the Spaniards had grasped the symbolism or not is not recorded. If they did, they did not respect it. To them the objects represented one thing: proof of the vast riches that awaited them in the Aztec realm. These irreplaceable objects were among the artful treasures that arrived in Seville from Mexico on December 9, 1519, on board the first treasure trip sent back to Spain by Cortes. The Spanish king Charles I, grandson of Ferdinand and sovereign of other European lands as Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, was then in Flanders, and the ship was sent off to Brussels. The golden hoard included in addition to the symbolic gifts golden figurines of ducks, dogs, tigers, lions, and monkeys; and a golden bow and arrows. But overwhelming them all was the "sun disk," seventy-nine inches in diameter and thick as four real coins…

…But whatever unique artistic, religious, cultural, or historical value "these things" had, to the king they represented first and last gold – gold with which he could finance his struggles against internal insurrections and external wars. Losing no time Charles ordered that these and all future objects made of precious metals be melted down on arrival as gold or silver bullion.

…In Mexico, Cortes… arrived at the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan – today’s Mexico City – in November 1519. The city, situated in the midst of a lake, could be reached only via causeways that could be easily defended. Yet, still awed by the prophecy of the Returning God, Moctezuma and all the nobles came out to greet Cortes and his entourage. Only Moctezuma wore sandals; all the others were barefoot, humbling themselves before the white god. He made the Spaniards welcome in his magnificent palace; there was gold everywhere; even the table-ware was made of gold; and they were shown a storage room filled with golden artifacts. Using a ruse, the Spaniards seized Moctezuma and held him in their quarters; for his release they demanded a ransom in gold. The nobles thereupon sent out runners throughout the kingdom to collect the ransom; the golden objects that were handed over were enough to fill a ship that sailed back to Spain. (It was however seized by the French, causing war to break out).

…A massacre of the Aztec noblemen and commanders was ordered by Cortes’ second-in-command… Moctezuma was killed and the Spaniards had a full fledged battle on their hands…

…Mexico, while being conquered, was indeed a New Golden Land; but once the gold artifacts created and accumulated over centuries, if not millennia, were hauled off, it was becoming apparent that Mexico was not the biblical land of Havila, and Tenochtitlan not the legendary City of Gold. And so the search for gold, which neither adventurers nor kings were prepared to give up, turned to other parts of the New World.

…The Spaniards had by then established a base, Panama, on the Pacific coast of America, and from there they were sending out expeditions and agents into Central and South America. It was there that they heard the alluring legend of El Dorado – short for el hombre dorado, the Gilded Man. He was a king whose kingdom was so rich in gold that he was painted each morning with a gum or oil on which gold dust was sprinkled, covering him from head to toe. In the evening he dipped in the lake and washed off the gold and oil, only to repeat the rite the next day. He reigned in a city that was in the center of a lake, situated on an island of gold.

…Reports of El Dorado were brought to Francisco Pizarro in Panama… it was said that an Indian from Colombia heard of "a country rich in emeralds and gold…Their king disrobed, and went aboard a raft to the midst of a lake to make oblations to the gods. His regal form was overspread with fragrant oil, from sole of foot unto his highest brow, making him resplendent at the beaming of the sun. To view the ritual many pilgrims had been coming making rich offerings of golden trinkets and emeralds rare… throwing them into the sacred lake."

…Still another version gave the name of the golden city as Manoa and said it was in the land of BiruPeru to the Spaniards.

…Word of El Dorado spread among the Europeans in the New World like wildfire…

…While some went to California, others to Venezuela, Francisco Pizarro and his lieutenants relied entirely on the Indian reports. Some went indeed to Colombia and searched the waters of Lake Guatavita – a search that continued on and off for four centuries, yielded votive golden objects and left ensuing generations of treasure hunters convinced that if the lake could be completely drained, the golden riches would be raised from its bottom.

Pizarro himself, accepted Peru as the right location. Two expeditions launched from their base in Panama along the Pacific coast of South America yielded enough gold objects to convince them that a major effort in Peru would pay off. After obtaining a royal charter for the purpose and the titles Captain General and Governor (of the province yet to be conquered), Pizarro sailed to Peru at the head of two hundred men. The year was 1530.

…How did he expect to take over with such a small force a large country protected by thousands of warriors fiercely loyal to their lord, the Inca, whom they considered to be the personification of a god? Pizarro’s plan was to repeat the strategy successfully employed by Cortes: to lure the ruler, seize him, obtain gold as ransom, then release him to be a Spanish puppet.

…The fact that the Incas, as the people themselves came to be called, were engaged in a civil war when the Spaniards landed was an unexpected boon. They found out that upon the death of the Lord Inca, his first born son by a "secondary wife" challenged the legitimacy of the succession by a son born to the Inca’s principal wife. When news of the advancing Spaniards reached the challenger, Atahualpa by name, he decided to let the Spaniards advance inland (and thus away from their ships and reinforcements) while he completed the seizing of the capital, Cuzco. On reaching a major city in the Andes, the Spaniards sent to him emissaries bearing gifts and offering peace talks. They suggested that the two leaders meet in the city square, unarmed and without military escort, as a show of good will. Atahualpa agreed. But when he reached the square, the Spaniards attacked his escort and held the Inca captive.

…To release him they asked for a ransom: let a room be filled with gold as high as a man’s outstretched hand can reach toward the ceiling… but then the Spaniards claimed that the deal was to fill the room with solid gold… and for over a month, Inca goldsmiths were engaged in melting down all the artful objects into ingots.

…As if history insisted on repeating itself, the fate of Atahualpa was exactly the same as that which befell Moctezuma. Pizarro intended to release him to rule as a puppet king; but zealous lieutenants and Church representatives, at a mock trial, sentenced Atahualpa to death for the crime of idolatry and the murder of his half brother, his rival for the throne.

Mr. Sitchin mentions, at this point, the treasures found by the conquistadors in Cuzco. It was fabulous, just to mention that in an artificial garden in the Temple of the Sun, there were 180,000 square feet of golden corn: silver stocks and golden ears!

…To the Incas, as to the Aztecs, gold was a gift or the property of the gods, not a means of exchange. They never used it as a commodity, as money. To the Spaniards, gold was a means to acquire whatever their hearts desired. Flashed with gold but short of home grown luxuries or even daily necessities, the Spaniards were soon paying sixty golden pesos for a bottle of wine, 100 for a cloak, 10,000 for a horse.

…But back in Europe, the inflow of gold, silver and precious stones raised the gold fever and encouraged more speculation about El Dorado. No matter how much treasure was coming in, the conviction persisted that El Dorado had not yet been found…

Perhaps the most romantic of all of them (clues) on account of his background and his royal sponsor, was Sir Walter Raleigh, who sailed from Plymouth in 1595 to find the legendary Manoa and add its golden glory to Queen Elizabeth‘s crown.

…Yet it was those dreamers, those adventurers, who in their lust for gold revealed to Western man the unknown peoples and civilizations of the Americas. And thereby, unknowingly, reestablished links that had existed in forgotten times.

…Why did the quest for El Dorado continue so intensively for so long even after the discovery of the incredible gold and silver treasures of Mexico and Peru, to say nothing of the other plundered lands? The continued and intensified search can be attributed mostly to the conviction that the source of all those riches had yet to be found.

…The Spaniards extensively questioned the natives about the fountainhead of the amassed treasures and tirelessly followed every clue. It soon became clear to them that the Caribbean and Yucatan were not primary sources at all: the Maya in fact indicated that they had obtained gold mostly by trading with their neighbors to the south and the west, and explaining that they had learned the arts of goldsmithing from earlier settlers (whom scholars nowadays identify by the name Toltecs)… but where do the others obtain the gold from? From the gods, the Maya answered. In the local tongues, gold was called teocuitlatl, literally meaning "the god’s excretion," their perspiration and their tears.

…The Aztecs too pointed to the Toltecs as their teachers of the art of goldsmithing. And who had taught the Toltecs? The great Quetzalcoatl, the Aztecs replied. Moctezuma revealed (to Cortes) that the gold came from three provinces of his kingdom… one inland in the southwest where the mines were…"There were no active mines," Cortes wrote in his report.

…While most experts on mining and metallurgy accept the conclusions of Cortes – that the Aztecs engaged in placer mining only (the collection of gold nuggets and dust from surfaces and river beds) and not in actual mining involving the cutting of shafts and tunnels into mountainsides – the issue is far from being resolved. The conquering Spaniards, and mining engineers in following centuries, persistently spoke of prehistoric gold mines found at various Mexican sites.

…They (the Aztecs) attributed to their predecessors, the Toltecs, not just the craftsmanship but also the knowledge of the hidden place of gold and the ability to mine it out of the rocky mountains…

…The Toltecs, most historians agree, had come to the highland of Mexico in the centuries preceding the Christian era – at least a thousand years, perhaps fifteen hundred years, before the Aztecs appeared on the scene. How was it possible that they had known mining, real mining of gold and other metals as well of precious stones such as turquoise, where are those who had followed them – the Aztecs – could only scrape nuggets off the surface? And who was it that had taught the Toltecs the secrets of mining? The answer as we have seen, was Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent god.

…The mystery of the accumulated gold treasures on the one hand and the limited ability of the Aztecs to obtain it, repeated itself in the land of the Incas.

…The chronicles relate that after the initial great ransom obtained from the Inca lord, the plunder of the riches of Cuzco and the tearing apart of the sacred temple at Pachacamac on the coast, the Spaniards became expert in "extracting" gold from the provinces in equally vast quantities.

…Seeking an answer to the puzzle, Ribero and von Tschudi wrote,

"The gold, although it was the Peruvians’ most esteemed metal, they possessed in a quantity greater than that of any other. Upon comparing its abundance, in the time of the Incas, with the quantity which, in the space of four centuries, the Spaniards have been able to extract from the mines and rivers, it becomes certain that the Indians had a knowledge of veins of this precious material which the conquerors and their descendants never succeeded in discovering."

…As in Mexico, the generally accepted notion regarding the Lands of the Andes has been (in the words of Del Mar) that "the precious metals obtained by the Peruvians previous to the Spanish conquest consisted nearly altogether of gold secured by washing the river gravels. No native shafts were found. A few excavations had been made at the sides of hills with outcrop of native gold or silver." That is true insofar as the Incas of the Andes (and the Aztecs of Mexico) were concerned; but in the Andean lands, as in Mexico, the question of prehistoric mining – the hewing of the metal out of vein-rich rocks – has not been settled.

…The possibility that at a time long before the Incas someone had access to gold at its vein sources (at places the Incas did not disclose or even did not know about), remains a plausible explanation for the accumulated treasures… no matter how obtained, poses still another, yet very basic, question: What for?

…In the ruins of a pre-Inca culture at Chimu, on the Peruvian coast, the great nineteenth-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt (a mining engineer by profession) discovered a mass of gold buried alongside the dead in tombs. The discovery of the metal made him wonder why would gold, being deemed of no practical use, be buried with the dead? Was it that somehow it was believed that they would need it in an afterlife – or that in joining their ancestors, they could use the gold the way their ancestors had once done?

…Who was it that had brought such customs and beliefs, and when?

…Who had caused gold to be so valued, and perhaps gone after it at its sources?

…The only answer the Spaniards were given was "the gods."

…It was of the god’s tears that gold was formed, the Incas said. And in so pointing to the gods they unknowingly echoed the statement of the biblical Lord through the prophet Haggai:

The silver is mine
and the gold is mine,
So sayeth the Lord of Hosts.

…It is this statement, we believe, that holds the key to unraveling the mysteries, enigmas, and secrets of gods, men, and ancient civilization in the Americas.

Footnotes:

  1. Columbus: The Book of Prophecies

Continue to Chapter 2: The Lost Realm of Cain?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s