Archaeological evidence suggests hunter-gatherers from both North and South America had settled in the area by 12,000 BC. As agriculture developed, permanent settlements appeared from around 2,500 BC. By the turn of the 16th century AD, the region was divided between some 19 major chieftainships, with a combined population of up to 500,000. European contact began with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1502 on his last voyage. The newly-named Costa Rica (Rich Coast) formed part of the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain from 1540 to 1821, then of the Central American Federation until 1838 when it achieved full independence. Coffee was introduced in 1808 and became a mainstay of the economy, helping to create a peasant land-owning class. In 1948 accusations of election fraud led to a six-week civil war, at the conclusion of which José Figueres Ferrer won power at the head of a revolutionary junta. A new constitution abolished the Army. In 1986 Óscar Arias Sánchez was elected president. He promised to prevent Nicaraguan anti-Sandinista (contra) forces using Costa Rica as a base. In 1987 he received the Nobel Peace Prize as recognition of his Central American peace plan, agreed to by the other Central American states.
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