Home > South America > Colombia > The Caribbean Coast and Islands > The Caribbean Coast and Islands Overview > Tayrona Culture
Page Rating
Content Quality:

Page Importance:
Author Pick:
Close Map

Book a Hotel or Hostel

Hotels Hostels & Budget


Check in Date

Check out Date

Number of Rooms

Top Colombia

Tayrona Culture

Approximately 1,800 years ago, the society we call “Tayrona” began on the Caribbean coast, between Ciénaga Grande and Río Palomino and up the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The early period is commonly called the “Neguanje” or “Buritaca” culture. Excavations at Bahía 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 Fernández 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 Marta’s governor, Juan Guiral Velón, 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:

Álvaro Soto-Holguin, The Lost City of the Tayrona (Bogotá: 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 (Medellín, Colombia : Editorial Colina, 1999)

Toby Muse, “Lost City,” Archaeology (Volume 57, Number 5, September/October 2004).

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to The Caribbean Coast and Islands: In Kuna Yala and Raizals.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

26 Jul 2011

VIVA Colombia

View Colombia Map

Antarctica | Central America and Mexico | South America |
Advertise | Anúnciese | Jobs | Alliances | Alianzas | Terms of Use | Contact Us | About Us | Blog | Administradores |
You must register as an owner for access to these listing tools and benefits.

Notification of new reviews: receive your latest reviews by e-mail

Customized request-a-review link: encourage guests to spread the word about your property

Our owners' newsletter: stay informed about our latest tools and benefits for you

User login

Enter your username and password here in order to log into the website:


Create a new V!VA account

Forgot Password