The Search for El Dorado
The Amazons

Francisco de Orellana swore that he and his men encountered powerful warrior women in 1542 during his quest for El Dorado. He would later name the river down which they traveled, the "Amazon," referring to women found in Greek mythology. According to this myth, there existed women who cut off their right breasts to make it easier to use a bowstring, and thus were named "a mastos," from the Greek "without breast." These Amazons had no use for men, other than for procreation and were said to kill male children.

English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, who would make his bid for El Dorado, in 1595, never had first-hand experience with the Amazons. But, in a romantic account he later writes of his expedition to Guiana as he dubbed the fabulous land, Raleigh sums up the information he had gathered on these warrior women:

"They...do accompany with men but only once a year, and for the time of one month, which I gather by their relation to be in April. At that time all the Kings of the borders assemble, and the Queens of the Amazons, and after the Queens have been chosen, the rest cast lots for their Valentines. This one month they feast, dance and drink their wines in abundance, and the moon being done they all depart to their own provinces. If they conceive and be delivered of a son, they return him to the father; if of a daughter they nourish it and retain it, and as many as have daughters send unto the begetters a present, all being desirous to increase their own sex and kind. But that they cut off the right dug of the breast I do not find to be true. It was farther told me that if in the wars they took any prisoners, that they used to accompany with those also, at what time soever, but in the end for certain they put them to death; for they are said to be very cruel and blood-thirsty, especially to such as offer to invade their territories."

Text excerpt: "The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana with a Relation of the Great and Golden Citie of Manoa (which the Spaniards call El Dorado)" By Sir W. Ralegh, Knight; 1596

Amazons Practicing Archery on Their Prisoners
Amazons Practicing Archery on Their Prisoners And Preparing to Roast Their Victims
Credit: "The Discoverie of Guiana," British Library
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