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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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7,3001981,263 (4.16)1 / 271
History. Nature. Nonfiction. HTML:

NATIONAL BESTSELLER ? A groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology that radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492??from ??a remarkably engaging writer? (The New York Times Book Review).
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Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man??s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only though… (more)

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 Dewey Decimal Challenge: 14914 unread / 4JBGUSA, March 2013

» See also 271 mentions

English (191)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (198)
Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
The abridged audio of this (11 1/4 hours on 9 CD's) is read by Peter Johnson.

You thought everyone that was in America before Columbus came from Asia, arriving via a trek across the Bering Straight, that American Indians learned about land development from Europeans, and that relatively few American Indians ever lived on this continent prior to the arrival of Columbus? Charles C. Mann tells us about the new generation of researchers who assert that these teachings and others are Myths—that the American Indians arrived long before glaciers melted to reveal a land bridge, that untold numbers of Indians probably died from diseases brought over by the Europeans and their livestock, and that the “wild” landscape Thoreau lamented man’s invasion of, was itself engineered by man.
At any rate, this is an interesting description of the ways that America’s past has become a controversial issue.
( )
  TraSea | Apr 29, 2024 |
When Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere, it was a nearly empty land with only a handful of people who hadn’t been there that long and had not done much in that time, right? 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann shatters narrative we learned in high school textbooks.

Throughout the book Mann tackled the familiar talking points, if not myths, of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and continual European contact. Over the course of 414 pages of text, Mann goes over the findings of scientists from multiple disciplines that reveal that at the time of contact the Americas were a highly populated area with numerous complex societies that had developed longer than previously thought and in a different way than those in the Old World. Yet it was how Native Americans shaped the land of both continents and all environments—especially the Amazon basin—that really made this a must read as Mann went into detail about the finds scientists had found. While Mann explored all these new finds, he does present the minority opinions among scientists who have issues with them yet the amount of evidence supporting this new conscious is very convincing. There might be comparisons with Jared Diamond and while Mann does mention some of Diamond points that he agrees with, but some of the evidence he presented refutes other of Diamond’s points though Mann never actually says anything to that affect. The one issue I had with the book was all the mistakes that a proofreader should have taken care of, especially since I was reading a second edition that Mann had added more content to.

1491 is a fascinating look into the Americas before continual European contact and the picture Charles C. Mann reveal through new scientific findings—at the time of publication—that do not look like what high school textbooks said they did. ( )
  mattries37315 | Apr 26, 2024 |
There are enough engrossing passages in this to keep you going but it frequently bogs down in nitty arguments between archaeologists that no one but themselves could possibly care about. I learned a hell of a lot though, so it was worth it. ( )
  gonzocc | Mar 31, 2024 |
A must for anyone interested in American anthropology. It emphasizes the control exerted over the environment by early Americans. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the changes in fauna, though it was too short. The appendices were all very interesting as well ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
(2005) Fair discourse on what the Americas were like before Columbus ?discovered? it. Kirkus:Unless you're an anthropologist, it's likely that everything you know about American prehistory is wrong. Science journalist Mann's survey of the current knowledge is a bracing corrective.Historians once thought that prehistoric Indian peoples somehow lived outside of history, adrift and directionless, ?passive recipients of whatever windfalls or disasters happenstance put in their way?; that view was central to the myth of the noble savage. In fact, writes Mann (Noah's Choice, with Mark L. Plummer, 1995), Native Americans were as active in shaping their environments as anyone else. They built great and wealthy cities; they lived, for the most part, on farms; and their home continents ?were immeasurably busier, more diverse, and more populous than researchers had previously imagined.? In defending this view, Mann visits several thriving controversies in the historic/prehistoric record. One is the question of pre-contact demographics: old-school scholars had long advanced the idea that there were only a few million Native Americans at the time of the Columbian arrival, whereas revisionists in the 1960s posited that there were eight million on the island of Hispaniola alone, a figure punctured by revisionists of revisionism, now beset by Native American activists for the political incorrectness of adjusting the census. Another controversy is the chronology of human presence in the Americas: the old date of 12,000 b.c., courtesy of the Bering Land Bridge in Alaska, no longer cuts it. Other arguments center on the nature of Native American societies such as the Aztec and Inca, the latter of whom built a great empire that, defying Western notions of logic, had no market component. Mann addresses each controversy with care, according the old-timers their due while making it clear that his sympathies lie, in the main, with the rising generation. He closes with a provocative thesis: namely, that the present worldwide movement toward democracy owes not to Locke or Newtonian physics, but to Indians, ?living, breathing role models of human liberty.?An excellent, and highly accessible, survey of America's past: a worthy companion to Jake Page's In the Hands of the Great Spirit (2003).Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2005ISBN: 1-4000-4006-XPage Count: 480Publisher: KnopfReview Posted Online: May 20, 2010Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005
  derailer | Jan 25, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 191 (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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History. Nature. Nonfiction. HTML:

NATIONAL BESTSELLER ? A groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology that radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492??from ??a remarkably engaging writer? (The New York Times Book Review).
 
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man??s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only though

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