Francisco de Orellana was a Spanish explorer and conquistador. He may have been a relative of Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador of
They faced tremendous challenges overcoming the Andes, leaving from
Orellana was chosen because he knew many native languages, and could communicate with the Indians and get help. But he and his men didn’t find any villages while navigating the
He descended the stream to its junction with the Amazon River, in present-day northeast
Chaplain of the expedition, Gaspar de Carvajal, wrote a diary of their voyage, which provides interesting, if not always accurate, descriptions of what the Amazon was like before Europeans arrived. He describes fertile croplands and turtle farms in the heart of the
He may have well led the first party of Europeans through a greatly advanced civilization that thrived in the Amazon for centuries – a civilization whose existence was thought to be impossible.
The excavation of ruins and even fragments of the language of Amazonians with words for crops they were supposedly unable to farm suggests that there were complex agricultural practices in place thousands of years ago.
Archaeologists have found that these Amazonian farmers apparently developed raised fields over half-mile long with irrigation canals in between. Somehow they found a method to enrich the soil with a microorganism that creates a dark, loamy stratum with potting-soil like qualities. Up to 10% of the
A Spanish expedition in 1617 remarked on the extent and high quality of a network of raised causeways connecting villages in the Amazon together. These causeways can still be seen as straight lines cutting across the savannah. Alongside them run canals, the result of their construction. This canal network could have sustained hundreds of thousands of people, and archaeologists believe that this area was home to a society that had totally mastered its environment.
During his voyage, Orellana also described encountering a tribe of women very white and tall and doing as much fighting as 10 men. These warrior women were very skilled with bows and arrows, and their queen, Conori, was said to have great treasures. Their formidable strength brought to mind the Amazons of Greek mythology, and Orellana’s tales of these female warriors gave the river and the region its name.
Orellana’s own name remains a bit stained owing to the suspicion that he abandoned Pizarro in a desperate situation. However, his men testified and he was found innocent. When he returned to
After being appointed governor of New Andalusia, he and his men arrived at the
The Amazon is the world’s second-longest river at
There is now an inland
Orellana, fanatical as he was with finding gold, was known as the “
The legend of El Dorado apparently originated in a tradition of the Chibcha people of Colombia who each year selected a chieftain and rolled him in gold, which he then ceremonially washed off in a sacred lake, casting offerings of emeralds and gold into the waters at the same time. This custom had evidently vanished long before the coming of the conquistadors, but the tales lived on and grew into a legend of a land of gold and plenty.
Orellana’s exploration also produced an international issue between