Approximately 1,800 years ago, the society we call âTayronaâ began on the Caribbean coast, between CiÃ©naga Grande and RÃo Palomino and up the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The early period is commonly called the âNeguanjeâ or âBuritacaâ culture. Excavations at BahÃa Chengue and Pueblito, both within PNN Tayrona, and at Teyuna (Ciudad Perdida) show that these sites were inhabited as far back as 650 AD. In the 11th-12th centuries AD, the Tayrona began extending its territory across the North and Southeast, and later the Southwest, slopes of the Sierra Nevada. In the 12th-15th centuries, Tayrona settlements had extensive road networks connecting them, as well as irrigation systems, agricultural terraces and drainage canals.
The Tayrona shared a common, Chibcha language and architectural styles. Their villages, however, were independent one from another. A few leaders expanded their political influence over great expanses of territory, but none controlled the entire Tayrona population or territory. This nation grew to be great traders, with routes extending to Central America and the Greater Antilles. They also worked in pottery, stone and gold, for which they are most famous.
In 1498, when Spanish explorer Gonzalo FernÃ¡ndez de Oviedo anchored in Santa Marta Bay, more than 250 Tayrona settlements, with a total population of 250,000, stretched across 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 sq mi) from the coast to 2,700 meters (8,858 ft) altitude. The Tayrona fought the Spaniards' invasion of their lands, and networked with French and English pirates to burn Santa Marta several times in the mid-16th century. In 1599 Santa Martaâs governor, Juan Guiral VelÃ³n, conducted an intense military campaign that captured and killed 67 Tayrona leaders.
Besides this extermination campaign, the introduction of new diseases like typhus, influenza and small pox decimated the Tayrona population. Remaining Tayrona retreated deep into the folds of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Some historians believe the Kogi are the Tayrona's modern-day descendants.
To learn more about the Tayrona, check out:
Ãlvaro Soto-Holguin, The Lost City of the Tayrona (BogotaÌ: I/M Editores, 2006)
Carl Henrik Langebaek, The Pre-Hispanic Population of the Santa Marta Bays: A Contribution to the Study of the Development of the Northern Colombian Tairona Chiefdoms (Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh, Dept. of Anthropology, 2005)
Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, The Sacred Mountain of Colombia's Kogi Indians (Leiden; New York : E.J. Brill, 1990)
Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff and Alicia Reichel-Dolmatoff, Sierra Nevada de Santas Marta: Land of the Elder Brothers (MedellÃn, Colombia : Editorial Colina, 1999)
Toby Muse, âLost City,â Archaeology (Volume 57, Number 5, September/October 2004).
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