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Colombia country’s population, more than half of all Colombians can trace at least part of their ancestry to native roots. The importance of Ameridians to Colombia reaches far beyond population numbers alone, though. Many very important agricultural crops may have been first domesticated and cultivated in Colombia. Colombian ­arts—­music, dance, painting, literature, and other forms of artistic ­expression—­reveal a strong Amerindian influence. Native peoples certainly played an important role in the early Spanish era of exploration, settlement, and ­colonization. Anthropologists divide Colombia’s native cultures into two basic groups, based on their means of subsistence: simple and advanced farmers. Simple farmers include the Arawak and Carib ­groups—­the latter of which the Spanish believed practiced cannibalism (Spanish caribe, meaning “savage,” or “cannibal,” hence, Carib, and Caribbean, or the “Cannibal Sea”!). Scholars remain divided in regard to whether the Caribs actually engaged in this gruesome ­practice. These peoples practiced ­“slash-­burn” farming, shifting cultivation within forested environments. Trees and other vegetation were cut, the debris was left to dry, and then it was burned. The ash added some fertility to the soil. Crops were planted using a dibble, a simple pointed digging stick. They included manioc, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and maize (corn) as staple foodstuffs. Also grown were condiments, such as hot peppers, fruits including the pineapple and avocado, indigo (a blue dye), cotton, and tobacco. Because of the heavy rainfall, nutrients are rapidly leached from the soil, which becomes infertile after several years. As a result, fields (and often villages) were shifted from place to ­place. Shelters were crude pole and thatch structures, often with a protective roof but open sides. If you have ever rested in a hammock, you have these people to thank, because they were the first to develop this hanging bed. Even today, many native peoples of tropical South America sleep in hammocks. They


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