Seven Cities of Gold … Pottery

The Aztecs called gold teocuitlatl (teh-oh-KWEE-tlah-tl), or excrement of the gods. My guess is, that name fits, and probably for the same reasons you might surmise. I’ll wait for your comment to find out.

The most beautiful artisan application I have personally seen are the gold shoes discovered in King Tut’s tomb.

Gold has many uses including medicine, electronics, spacecraft film, Denver’s Capitol dome covering, jewelry, and who can forget the idolatrous Old Testament story of Aaron and the golden calf (Exodus 32). Because it’s rare, it’s expensive. And while the value of gold does fluctuate, since the supply is limited, it remains a good investment.

El Dorado

Ready for a short history lesson? Fifteen century Spanish explorers had great faith in an ancient folklore about a land called Antilia. As the story goes, during eighth century Iberian upheaval, seven Portuguese bishops escaped with untold treasures. They sailed away and landed somewhere across the sea, perhaps on an island. But it was never found. Intent on finding this Lost City of Gold, the New World continent of North America captivated the Spaniards imaginations. They decided its native peoples, those whom we know today as Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo Indians, had obtained the Bishops’ wealth. Thus, when guides declared the tierra nueva (new land) was rich, specifically an area called Cibola that housed many cities, the hunt was on.

A French priest, fray Marcos de Niza, was sent on a reconnaissance mission to verify the veracity of the wealth. He took with him a slave named Esteban who went ahead and was regretfully killed. This event caused fray Marcos to proceed with caution. Supposedly, albeit from a distance, he viewed the first of the Seven Cities of Cibola. When the Franciscan came back to New Spain, he told Viceroy Mendoza that the city had stone buildings and observable wealth. As the story goes, the settlers, hidalgos, and conquistadores got very excited and elaborated their take on the tale.

For all we know, fray Marcos may have truly seen vessels of gold, but not the kind you think.

Yellow Ware

The Natives of that land used to trade many items. Parrot feathers, seashells, turquoise, cotton, bison hides … the list goes on. These items were more valuable to them than gold since the metal is too soft and mailable to be of much use. Flint for making arrows was a more useful material.

At the time of Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition (1540-42) Hopi yellow ware pottery was in vogue. It is quite possible that the Zuni Indians fray Marcos saw were holding some of these pots they had obtained through trade. On the other hand, Pueblo Indians from Taos crafted pottery using golden colored clay infused with mica. The resulting glittery, golden pots may have been mistaken for solid gold.

From a distance.




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