Cartagena’s gold museum is an absolute must-see. Not only does it house some of the most beautiful gold, silver and copper pre-Hispanic artworks of the Sinu civilisation you’re ever likely to see, its also free to visit. The ferocious air conditioning and fascinating film at the end of the visit are just an added bonuses.
Walking around the museum makes you realise just how advanced and organised was the civilisation that existed in this part of the continent before the Spanish arrival. There is rich detail of the political, economic and social structure of these societies, all supported by tremendous examples of their artistic excellence.
It also makes you realise the immense loss inflicted upon our understanding of these cultures when the Spanish melted down the gold and silver into ingots.
So voracious was the Spanish appetite for riches that I sometimes find myself just grateful that any of the original gold and silver artworks survived to the modern day. Yet what has survived is only a tiny fraction of the cultural heritage of the pre-Hispanic Americas destroyed – partly for religious reasons, partly for economic reasons – by the Spanish conquerers.
While much of the museum is dedicated to precious metal, there are also exquisite examples of pottery, necklaces and other items made with semi-precious stones, sea shells and bone. The museum is fantastic, if you ever find yourself in Cartagena go and see it first hand.