Treasure and Terror: Discovering the Americas in the Age of Exploration

13 March – 31 October 2010

Spurred on by thoughts of treasure – particularly gold, silver, gems and spices – European travellers mapped the Americas in the 15th – 17th centuries. This period of ocean travel to the ‘New World’ and the Indies became known as the Age of Exploration.

One of the reasons driving so great an investment in such perilous ventures was the story of ‘El Dorado’ – the legend of the Golden Man, which had its source in the Colombian highlands. The story of El Dorado drifted across the Americas and was, in time, transformed into an idea of a mythic city of gold. European searches for this El Dorado were unremittingly vicious, bringing destruction and terror to the native populations.

This exhibition was lavishly illustrated with Renaissance maps and beautiful artefacts from the Americas before the coming of the Europeans. This venture was made possible through the generosity of private collectors who loaned many pre-Columbian pieces for this exhibition.