Cartagena Colombia, according to descriptions that survive, the homes of the prehistoric inhabitants of the city may have looked very similar to these Taino culture huts in Baconao, Cuba.

The Puerto Hormiga Culture, found in the Caribbean coast region, particularly in the area from the Sinú River Delta to the Cartagena Bay, appears to be the first documented human community in what is now Colombia. Archeologists estimate that around 4000 BC, the formative culture was located near the boundary between the current departments of Bolívar and Sucre. In this area, archeologists have found the most ancient ceramic objects of the Americas, dating from around 4000 BC. The primary reason for the proliferation of primitive societies in this area is thought to have been the relative mild climate and the abundance of wildlife, which allowed the hunting inhabitants a comfortable life.

Archeological investigations date the decline of the Puerto Hormiga culture and its related settlements to be around 3000 BC. The rise of a much more developed culture, the Monsú, who lived at the end of the Dique Canal near today’s Cartagena neighborhoods Pasacaballos and Ciénaga Honda at the northernmost part of Barú Island, has been hypothesized. The Monsú culture appears to have inherited the Puerto Hormiga culture’s use of the art of pottery and also to have developed a mixed economy of agriculture and basic manufacture. The Monsú people’s diet was based mostly on shellfish and fresh and salt-water fish.

The development of the Sinú society in what is today the departments of Córdoba and Sucre, eclipsed these first developments around the Cartagena Bay area. Until the Spanish colonization, many cultures derived from the Karib, Malibu and Arawak language families lived along the Colombian Caribbean coast. In the late pre-Columbian era, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was home to the Tayrona people, whose language was closely related to the Chibcha language family.

Around AD 1500, the area was inhabited by different tribes of the Carib language family, more precisely the Mocanae sub-family.

Mocana villages of the Carib people around the Bay of Cartagena included:

  • on sandy island facing the ocean in what is present-day downtown: Kalamarí (Calamari)
  • on the island of Tierrabomba: Carex
  • on Isla Barú, then a peninsula: Bahaire
  • on present-day Mamonal, the eastern coast of the exterior bay: Cospique
  • in the suburban area of Turbaco: Yurbaco Tribe

Some subsidiary tribes of the Kalamari lived in today’s neighborhood of Pie de la Popa, and other subsidiaries from the Cospique lived in the Membrillal and Pasacaballos areas. Among these, according to the earliest documents available, the Kalamari had preeminence. These tribes, though physically and administratively separated, shared a common architecture, such as hut structures consisting of circular rooms with tall roofs, which were surrounded by defensive wooden palisades


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