The Portuguese were the first European settlers to arrive in the area, led by adventurous Pedro Cabral, who began the colonial period in 1500. The Portuguese reportedly found native Indians numbering around seven million. Most tribes were peripatetic, with only limited agriculture and temporary dwellings, although villages often had as many as 5000 inhabitants. Cultural life appears to have been richly developed, although both tribal warfare and cannibalism were ubiquitous. The few remaining traces of Brazil's Indian tribes reveal little of their lifestyle, unlike the evidence from other Andean tribes. Today, fewer than 200,000 of Brazil's indigenous people survive, most of whom inhabit the jungle areas.
Other Portuguese explorers followed Cabral, in search of valuable goods for European trade but also for unsettled land and the opportunity to escape poverty in Portugal itself. The only item of value they discovered was the pau do brasil (brazil wood tree) from which they created red dye. Unlike the colonizing philosophy of the Spanish, the Portuguese in Brazil were much less focused at first on conquering, controlling, and developing the country. Most were impoverished sailors, who were far more interested in profitable trade and subsistence agriculture than in territorial expansion. The country's interior remained unexplored.