Panche people

The Panche or Tolima were an indigenous group of people in what is now Colombia. Their language is unclassified – and possibly unclassifiable – but may have been Cariban.[2] They inhabited the southwestern parts of the department of Cundinamarca and the northeastern areas of the department of Tolima, close to the Magdalena River. At the time of the Spanish conquest, more than 30,000 Panche were living in what would become the New Kingdom of Granada.[1] Early knowledge about the Panche has been compiled by scholar Pedro Simón. According to the latter, the word panche in their own Panche language means "cruel" and "murderer".[3]

Nevado del Ruiz desde Guaduas.jpg
Guaduas, northernmost territory of the Panche
view of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano
Total population
30,000[1] (1537)
Regions with significant populations
Cundinamarca, Tolima,  Colombia
Cariban, Colombian Spanish
Traditional religion, Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Muzo, Muisca, Sutagao, Pijao

Panche territoryEdit

Map of pre-Columbian civilizations. The Panche and Pijao are grouped as Tolima
The Panche performed craneal deformation as part of their culture

The Panche were inhabiting the lower altitude southwestern areas of the Cundinamarca department, close to the Magdalena River. Their northern neighbours were the Muzo in the northeast and the Pantágora in the northwest, in the east the Muisca, in the southeast the Sutagao and to the south and southwest the Pijao. The northern limits were defined by the Río Negro and the Guarinó River and the southern limits the Coello and Fusagasugá Rivers.[4]

The Panche people were organized in a loose confederation with different subgroups whose names still remain as municipalities of Cundinamarca.

Municipalities belonging to Panche territoriesEdit

Name Department Altitude (m)
urban centre
Albán Cundinamarca 2245
Anapoima Cundinamarca 710
Anolaima Cundinamarca 1657
Apulo Cundinamarca 420
Beltrán Cundinamarca 235
Bituima Cundinamarca 1627
Cachipay Cundinamarca 1600
Chaguaní Cundinamarca 1200
El Colegio Cundinamarca 990
Girardot Cundinamarca 326
Guaduas Cundinamarca 992
Guataquí Cundinamarca 227
Guayabal de Síquima Cundinamarca 1630
La Mesa Cundinamarca 1200
Nilo Cundinamarca 336
Nimaima Cundinamarca 1085
Nocaima Cundinamarca 1105
Pulí Cundinamarca 1270
Quipile Cundinamarca 2012
Ricaurte Cundinamarca 284
San Juan de Rioseco Cundinamarca 1303
Sasaima Cundinamarca 1203
(disputed with the zipa
of the Muisca)
Cundinamarca 1647
Tocaima Cundinamarca 400
Vianí Cundinamarca 1498
Viotá Cundinamarca 567
Ambalema Tolima 241
Honda Tolima 229
Mariquita Tolima 495


The Panche were a strong group of warriors who fought numerous battles with the neighbouring Muisca. They walked partially naked and were ornamented with earrings, feathers and golden pieces.[5]

The Panche hunted and fought wars with their enemies using sticks and clubs and poisoned arrows. They used poison of spiders and snakes for their arrows.[5]

Petroglyphs of the Panche were discovered in Tibacuy, Viotá, El Colegio, Cachipay, Albán, Sasaima. Rock paintings have been found in Tibacuy.[6]

Like other indigenous peoples of the Americas, such as the Guane, the Panche performed cranial deformation.[5]

According to Pedro Simón, the Panche performed cannibalism on parts of their conquered enemies.[7] Some sources state they ate everything except for the heads, which they hung in their bohíos.[8] However, later research by various researchers has found no evidence for cannibalism and attribute the cannibalistic ideas to the Spanish conquistadores.[9]

In terms of their burial practices the Panches differed from their neighbours that the dead were not oriented in a fixed position, like the Muisca with their heads to the east and the Muzo with their heads to the west.[10]


Magdalena River
Bogotá River in Tocaima
The war-like Panche defended their terrain first against the Muisca and then against the Spanish and Muisca
The Magdalena River formed the western boundary of the Panche with the Pijao and Pantágora

The Panche civilization has been described from 300 AD onwards.[1] Around the year 1000 migrations from the Caribbean coast of Colombia happened inward.[11]

After the Spanish conquest and the installation of the New Kingdom of Granada, the Panche quickly diminished due to their resistance against the Spanish conquistadores.[12] The first Spanish conquerors who invaded the Panche territories were Juan de Céspedes and Alonso de San Martín.[7] Later conquest was performed by Hernán Venegas Carrillo.

More than 2000 artefacts from the Panche are stored in the Museo del Oro in Bogotá.[5]

1543-44 - Expedition Hernán Venegas CarrilloEdit

Name Department Date Year Note(s) Map
Bituima Cundinamarca 15 August 1543 [13]
Chaguaní Cundinamarca 1543 [14]
Apulo Cundinamarca 5 January 1544 [15]
Tocaima Cundinamarca 20 March 1544 [16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c The lost Panches
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Panche". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ (in Spanish) Meaning Panche according to Pedro Simón
  4. ^ De Perdomo, 1975, p.249-250
  5. ^ a b c d Martínez, 2005
  6. ^ (in Spanish) Petroglyphs of the Panche people
  7. ^ a b De Perdomo, 1975, p.253
  8. ^ (in Spanish) Cannibalism of the Panche - El Espectador
  9. ^ Francis, 1993, pp.14-15
  10. ^ De Perdomo, 1975, p.275
  11. ^ (in Spanish) Panche culture and migrations
  12. ^ Chair of the Panche chief, resistance against the Spanish
  13. ^ (in Spanish) Official website Bituima[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ (in Spanish) Official website Chaguaní Archived 2015-05-16 at
  15. ^ (in Spanish) Official website Apulo[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ (in Spanish) Official website Tocaima Archived 2014-03-10 at