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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,6511801,261 (4.16)1 / 265
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)
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 Dewey Decimal Challenge: 14914 unread / 4JBGUSA, March 2013

» See also 265 mentions

English (174)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (180)
Showing 1-5 of 174 (next | show all)
This entire book was fascinating, though it was a bit of a slog at times to get through. But when it got slow enough for me to consider stopping, it picked up again.

I only wish Mann was a bit clearer on the premise/theme of each section. Instead, I had to figure it out myself. ( )
  wisemetis | Dec 26, 2022 |
Charles C. Mann clarifies North, Central, and South America's misty history by examining the continents' past landscapes, archeological records, and legends.

While this book was published almost two decades ago, there was a lot of information here that was new to me. Mann doesn't do most of his research from a desk. Instead, he travels to the places he discusses and talks to local residents and experts.

I appreciate his honesty in discussing the disagreements between the experts on topics like whether the Amazon basin ever had advanced civilizations. He explains the debates and why they matter. In doing so, he clarifies that archeologists, like everyone else, sometimes allow their values to color their conclusions. My only wish was that he had skipped around a little less geographically. Switching from North to South to Central America caused occasional mental whiplash.

While the stories cover a dizzying amount of material, the quantity is not unreasonable considering he's covering tens of thousands of years and that the acreage covers two massive continents. Mann weaves in stories that provide entertainment and humor. Whoever knew "Squanto," the friend of the Pilgrims, introduced himself to them as, roughly translated, "The Wrath of God." Things have always been more complicated than we are led to believe from a distance.

I enjoyed this book. It's densely packed with information, and this was generally welcome for someone interested in history. I'm sure since Mann wrote this book, scientists and historians have discovered many new artifacts, so I would love to see it updated. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in indigenous cultures or early American history. ( )
  Library_Lin | Oct 12, 2022 |
Insightful!
  RonSchulz | Jun 24, 2022 |
True confession? I have a rather large obsession with pre-history land masses. "Pre-history" meaning: before being found by "civilized" white folks. My obession started in Washington State and checking out glacial mounds there, fasicnating. Living in Louisiana and checking out Poverty Point, not realizing from this book that there was an even larger one closer to me.... Living in Illinois and dragging my family to Cahokia Mound by the Mississippi River. Traveling to Ireland to check out Newgrange. I do have it rather bad. Then this book mentions SO. MANY. MORE! I must admit I skimmed the first parts as they were more in South and Central America, but boy do I want to go to Belize even more now! Then, the chapters about North America, and it was right where I have been before. So exciting! I just love this stuff and really try to hold in the urge to recreate these things in my backyard but it is getting harder to do that. Anyway....I won't recommend this book to any of my friends because they will think I am crazier than I am. But, if any friends read this review and have their interests piqued, please let me know. :) ( )
  BarbF410 | May 22, 2022 |
A super interesting and in-depth look at the 2 American continents before they were colonized. The author brings a lot of new information suggesting the civilizations were much more abundant and advanced then thought. It is a very insight read and a new way to look at history at this part of the world. I highly recommend it. ( )
  renbedell | Apr 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 174 (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

--CCM
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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.
The plane took off in weather that was surprisingly cool for central Bolivia and few east, toward the Brazilian border.
[Afterward to the Vintage Edition] When I set out to write 1491, my hope was that it would introduce readers to a subject that I found fascinating.
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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.

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