Pre-Columbian North America was filigreed with trading networks stretching to the Eskimo in the Arctic and the urban Mexican civilizations in the south. At key junctions, major trade emporia developed. At the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi, Cahokia had a peak population of c. 40,000, flourishing as a transcontinental entrepôt. The nomadic Shoshone held moving ‘fairs’ on the Great Plains. Precious minerals such as turquoise, obsidian and copper were universally prized, as were dyestuffs like cinnabar. The Plains Indians traded their bison hides for the corn, beans and jewellery they could not produce. The Dalles hub in the Northwest imported oolichan (oily fish) and Dentalium shells (widely used for ritual purposes) for exchange with pottery, obsidian and turquoise from the Pueblos. Along the eastern seaboard, a network centred on Susquehanna bartered conch shells, tobacco and sharks’ teeth from the south, with copper, and furs and from the north.
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