The Quest for El Dorado

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11949

The City of Atlantis. The Fountain of Youth. Santa's Workshop. Utopia. Nervana. They're all legends that entice our imaginations at times. So it is with El Dorado, a tale of greed with lessons for us!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Can you think of any legends? What was the real history behind the legend that comes to mind ? Why do you think people twisted the true story?

You've probably heard of the California Gold Rush, and you've certainly heard of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers football team.

The football team's name commemorates the thousands of men who migrated to California in the late 1840s in search of quick wealth — in the form of gold. The reality is that the real gold rush began centuries before when the Spanish conquistadores ravaged Central and South America to gather as much gold as possible.

The Spaniards arrived in the New World to find Indians with vast stores of gold riches. These natives didn't view gold and other precious metals the same way as the newly-arrived Europeans, for whom gold was literally a form of money. Then, there was a small misunderstanding that launched many frantic adventures in search of this shiny mineral. It became known as the legend of El Dorado, The Golden One.

Read more about the legend of El Dorado in "The Search for El Dorado - Lost City of Gold," courtesy of Ancient Origins. As you read, write down answers to the following questions:

  • How did the legend of El Dorado get started?
  • What were the long-term impacts of this legend? For natives? For Europeans?
  • What did the natives want to do with the gold?
  • What did the Europeans want to do with the gold?

Record your answers to the questions above, then share your findings with your parent or teacher and discuss the following questions:

  • How did the natives and the Europeans view gold differently?
  • Why do you think they had such different views about this mineral?
  • What do you think El Dorado represented in the European imagination?

The discovery of the New World triggered all manner of fantasies about quick wealth, a healthier and longer life, and untold freedom. It was easy for Europeans to project their highest hopes onto this giant, abundant land.

In the Got It? section, take a look at how the legend of El Dorado took on a life of its own.

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