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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.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.Today, Tampa is part of the metropolitan area most commonly referred to as the "Tampa Bay Area". When the pioneer community living near the US Army outpost of Fort Brooke was incorporated in 1849, it was called "Tampa Town", and the name was shortened to simply "Tampa" in 1855.

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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.

Expeditions led by Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa, but neither conquistador stayed long.

As late as 1774, Bernard Romans called Tampa Bay "Bay of Espiritu Santo", with "Tampa Bay" restricted to the Northwest arm (what is now Old Tampa Bay), and the northeast arm named "Hillsborough Bay".

The name may have come from the Calusa language, or possibly, the Timucua language.

del Spirito Santo" for Tampa Bay, and, again, "Carlos Bay" to the south.

A Spanish map of 1757 renamed Tampa Bay as "San Fernando".

Early Spanish explorers to visit the area interacted extensively (and violently) with the Tocobaga, whose principal town was at the northern end of Old Tampa Bay near today's Safety Harbor in Pinellas County.

While there is a substantial historical record of the Tocobaga (and the Calusa, who lived far to the south), there is less surviving documentation describing the Pohoy chiefdom, which controlled the area near the mouth of the Hillsborough River near today's downtown Tampa.

The bay's port is the largest in the state, near downtown's Channel District. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The four-county area is composed of roughly 3.1 million residents, The Tampa Bay Partnership and U. Census data showed an average annual growth of 2.47 percent, or a gain of approximately 97,000 residents per year.

Bayshore Boulevard runs along the bay, and is east of the historic Hyde Park neighborhood. Between 20, the Greater Tampa Bay Market experienced a combined growth rate of 14.8 percent, growing from 3.4 million to 3.9 million and hitting the 4 million population mark on April 1, 2007.

The indigenous cultures of the Tampa Bay area had collapsed by around 1600, leaving the west coast of Spanish Florida largely depopulated and ignored for more than 200 years.

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