Trans-Saharan Cross-Continental Trade Early tribes inhabiting the triad cities of Mauritania, in ancient West Africa below the Sahara, embraced caravan trade with the Berbers of North Africa. Gold from the sub-Saharan area was exchanged for something even more prized—salt, a precious substance needed for retaining body moisture, preserving meat, and flavoring food. Single caravans, stretching 5 miles and including nearly 2,500 camels, earned their reputation as ships of the desert as they ferried gold powder, slaves, ivory, animal hides, and ostrich feathers to the northeast and returned with salt, wool, gunpowder, porcelain pottery, silk, dates, millet, wheat, and barley from the east.
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China as an Ancient Global Trading Initiator In 1421, a fleet of over 3,750 vessels set sail from China to cultivate trade around the world for the emperor. The voyage reflected the emperor’s desire to collect tribute in exchange for trading privileges with China and China’s protection. The Chinese, like modern-day multinationals, sought to extend their economic reach while recognizing principles of economic equity and fair trade. In the course of their global trading, the Chinese introduced uniform container
measurements to enable merchants to transact business using common weight and dimension measurement systems. Like the early Egyptians and later the Romans, they used coinage as an intermediary form of value exchange or specie, thus eliminating complicated barter transactions.