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Tairona was a group of chiefdoms in the region of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in present-day Cesar, Magdalena and La Guajira Departments of Colombia, South America, which goes back at least to the 1st century CE and had significant demographic growth around the 11th century. The Tairona people formed one of the two principal linguistic groups of the Chibchan family, the other being the Muisca. Genetic and archaeological evidence shows a relatively dense occupation of the region by at least 200 BCE. Pollen data compiled by Luisa Fernanda Herrera in the 1980 shows considerable deforestation and the use of cultigens such as yuca and maiz since possibly 1200 BCE. However, occupation of the Colombian Caribbean coast by sedentary or semi-sedentary populations has been documented to have occurred by c. 4000 BCE. Ethnohistorical data shows that initial contact with the Spanish was tolerated by the Tairona; but by the 1600 CE confrontations grew, and a small part of the Tairona population moved to the higher stretches of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This movement allowed them to evade the worst of the Spanish colonial system during the 17th and 18th centuries. The indigenous Kogi, Wiwa, Arhuacos (Ijka, Ifca) and Kankuamo people who live in the area today are believed to be direct descendants of the Tairona.

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