According to this article "Archaeology and Legend- How Old Is Acoma?", and a high school history textbook, some Spanish sent out expeditions to look for a "lake of gold". I've found scarce information about this lake.

How did the Spanish imagine this lake to be made of gold? Did they expect it to be liquid gold?

  • Why is this down-voted? I am teaching a lesson on this, and I'm sure my students will want to know more details, so I want to be prepared to answer their questions. I couldn't find anything about the lake from my searches.
    – Village
    Nov 2, 2019 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


The best approach to this sort of question is to remember that while people of past times knew less than us, they were not stupid. In this case, you can be sure that they knew that a lake of molten gold was unlikely. So what might they have meant?

Most probably a lake with gold lying on the bottom. There are historical records of lakes such as Lake Guatavita which were used for sacrifice resulting in gold (and other) objects being tossed in. (E.g., see this article or this one. (Note that sacrificing valuable into a lake is a widespread cultural phenomenon, and multiple instances in Europe, so it is likely that when the Spanish heard rumors of such sacrificial lakes, they glomed right onto them.)

Another possibility is that they were looking for accumulations of placer gold which is certainly found in streams. It seems reasonable that they may have expected it to wind up in larger quantities in lake, though I don't know of any good references to this. (Why in the Americas and not in Europe: the Spanish were very impressed with the amount of gold the meso-American civilizations had accumulated and probably assumed that that amount of smoke meant there were some very big fires around.)

  • Placer gold is often fine enough to be carried by the current of a mountain stream, but much if not all will drop to the bottom anytime that current slows - such as upon entering a lake. Nov 2, 2019 at 17:10
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    @PieterGeerkens True, but the placer gold deposits I've heard of were all in streams, not in lakes. But it's certainly plausible.
    – Mark Olson
    Nov 2, 2019 at 19:00
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    It's rare for a stream to run strong long and far enough to reach a lake before slowing - and panning a lake is much harder than panning a fast-flowing stream. But the physics is the same as for any other dispersion. Nov 2, 2019 at 19:17
  • I believe it's more likely that there was a lake that frequently caught the light in such a way as to have a golden appearance. By happenstance, the lake was in a gold producing area. Remember, translating from Aztec to Spanish was probably imprecise when dealing with abstracts. Nov 4, 2019 at 18:01

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