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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before…

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,3581471,304 (4.17)1 / 259
Mann shows how a new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques have come to previously unheard-of conclusions about the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans: In 1491 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe. Certain cities--such as Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital--were greater in population than any European city. Tenochtitlán, unlike any capital in Europe at that time, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens, and immaculately clean streets. The earliest cities in the Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great pyramids. Native Americans transformed their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already massively "landscaped" by human beings. Pre-Columbian Indians in Mexico developed corn by a breeding process that the journal Science recently described as "man's first, and perhaps the greatest, feat of genetic engineering."--From publisher description.… (more)
Recently added byLucyIHO, TomWhitaker, CraigBrophy, Cassabass, NylesClaire, TBatalias, JessGandy, private library, KT53Lam
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English (142)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
Interesting pop-science-history review of civilization in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans (and their ensuing impact). It's in a similar vein as Guns, Germs and Steel, though more conversational. reasonable, but could be better. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
What was life like before Columbus ventured into the “New” World? Chances are you were taught in school that there was a lot of wilderness to tame and that American Indians sparsely filled the continents in a passive manner. Citing new research on many fronts, Mann contends that this picture is simply incorrect.

The Americas have been filled with many civilizations that were more advanced, in some respects, than their European counterparts. They lived in better harmony with the natural environment through the systematic burning of grasslands so that wild game would congregate into one central spot. In the meantime, burning would recycle the nutrients into the soil.

Europeans, unfortunately, brought disease. These diseases (like smallpox) may have killed about 95% of the population – which is why later European settlers saw the Native Americans as sparse. Besides an upheaval of health, the Europeans upended the environment, too, by stripping natural resources instead of reinvesting nutrients into the soil.

The Central and South American groups discovered writing and mathematics on their own. They even came to grips with the number zero far before their counterparts did in Europe. Mann cites evidence that, far from simple, the American Indians were refined. Some even taught their European neighbors that common sentiment should govern a land instead of a king. (Yes, the Indians were cited as more democratic while Europe was caught up in the divine right of kings.)

The terms used in this book can be confusing because they are so unfamiliar. Once the reader works past this, they will engage in a treasure trove of rich ideas based in research that challenge what American high schools currently teach about our past. Anyone who is willing to look beneath the stereotypes would benefit from this book. ( )
  scottjpearson | Jan 25, 2020 |
picked this up from the library by accident. great book and the only downside is the authors prefer native american culture too much. over praising it and putting down european culture. ( )
  alent1234 | Dec 5, 2019 |
Fantastic historically and rhetorically. Very clear writing, with good use of new discoveries and revised analysis of old ones.

(NOTE: My reading was interrupted with a 2-week hiatus. The book was not at all difficult to read or understand, which is a miracle not attained by most of the popular or scholarly histories I've read lately). ( )
  librisissimo | Nov 1, 2019 |
Excellent. The author presents the various theories about how native american societies developed and the extent to which they advanced prior to the invasion from Europe. He makes the science compelling and easy to understand for the non-anthropologist. This is the book that should be part of every middle and high school curriculum. ( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 26, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
Mann has written an impressive and highly readable book. Even though one can disagree with some of his inferences from the data, he does give both sides of the most important arguments. 1491 is a fitting tribute to those Indians, present and past, whose cause he is championing.
Mann has chronicled an important shift in our vision of world development, one our young children could end up studying in their textbooks when they reach junior high.

Mann does not present his thesis as an argument for unrestrained development. It is an argument, though, for human management of natural lands and against what he calls the "ecological nihilism" of insisting that forests be wholly untouched.
Mann's style is journalistic, employing the vivid (and sometimes mixed) metaphors of popular science writing: "Peru is the cow-catcher on the train of continental drift. . . . its coastline hits the ocean floor and crumples up like a carpet shoved into a chairleg." Similarly, the book is not a comprehensive history, but a series of reporter's tales: He describes personal encounters with scientists in their labs, archaeologists at their digs, historians in their studies and Indian activists in their frustrations. Readers vicariously share Mann's exposure to fire ants and the tension as his guide's plane runs low on fuel over Mayan ruins. These episodes introduce readers to the debates between older and newer scholars. Initially fresh, the journalistic approach eventually falters as his disorganized narrative rambles forward and backward through the centuries and across vast continents and back again, producing repetition and contradiction. The resulting blur unwittingly conveys a new sort of the old timelessness that Mann so wisely wishes to defeat.

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles C. Mannprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boraso, MarinaTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the woman in the next-door office--

Cloudlessly, like everything

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Preface: The seeds of this book date back, at least in part, to 1983, when I wrote an article for 'Science' about a NASA program that was monitoring atmospheric ozone levels.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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