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Expeditions led by Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa, but neither conquistador stayed long.There is no natural gold or silver in Florida, and the native inhabitants repulsed Spanish attempts to establish a permanent settlement or convert them to Catholicism.At the time of European contact in the early 16th century, the Safety Harbor culture dominated the area, with indigenous peoples organized into three or four chiefdoms around the shores of the bay.Early Spanish explorers to visit the area interacted extensively (and violently) with the Tocobaga, whose principal town was located at the northern end of Old Tampa Bay near today's Safety Harbor in Pinellas County.The first iteration of the name "Tampa" first appears in the memoirs of Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda (1575), who had spent 17 years as a Calusa captive and traveled through much of peninsular Florida.He spelled it "Tanpa" and describes it as an important Calusa town on the west coast.
However, brief mentions by explorers along with surviving artifacts suggest that the Pohoy and other groups that once lived on Tampa Bay had very similar cultures and lifestyles as the better-documented Tocobaga.
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The shores of Tampa Bay have been inhabited for thousands of years.
A variant of the Weeden Island culture developed in the area by about 2000 years ago, with archeological evidence suggesting that these residents relied on the sea for most of their resources, as a vast majority of inhabited sites have been found on or near the shoreline and there is little evidence of farming.