In pre-Columbian America, gold, silver, and copper were the principal metals that were worked, with tin, lead, and platinum used less frequently. These agricultural beginnings go back several millennia, to perhaps about bce and the first experimentations by the early Americans with plant cultivation. The domestication of successful food plants proved to be a long, slow process, and it was not until much later that a condition of permanent village farming life was achieved in the tropical latitudes of the two continents. Sedentary village farming in Mesoamerica came into being by about bce. Corn maize , beans , squashes , chili peppers , and cotton were the most important crops. These early villagers wove cloth, made pottery , and practiced other typical Neolithic skills.
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Rediscovering the Photographs of Explorer Carl Lumholtz. The European market in African slaves, which opened with a cargo of Mauritanian blacks unloaded in Portugal in , and the explorer Christopher Columbus, born in Genoa ten years later, were closely linked. The ensuing Age of Discovery, with its expansions of empires and exploitations of New World natural resources, was accompanied by the seizure and forced labor of human beings, starting with Native Americans. He found the men tall, handsome, and good farmers, the women comely, near naked, and apparently available. In exchange for glass beads, brass hawk bells, and silly red caps, the seamen received cotton thread, parrots, and food from native gardens. Fresh fish and fruits were abundant. Glints in the ornaments worn by natives promised gold, and they presumably knew where to find more.