Their Red Dye Was Worth More Than Silver
The most valuable export from the New World in the 16th century was surprisingly red dye. Centuries ago, Native Americans developed a process in which dried cactus-eating insects, called cochineal, could be turned into red dye.
Historically, red fabrics were an indicator of status and wealth. The dye from cochineal was the most potent red dye in the world and because of its rarity, its value soon matched that of silver during the Renaissance.