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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before…
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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann (Author), Abby Weintraub (Cover designer)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,9041701,269 (4.16)1 / 263
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)
Member:jimcripps
Title:1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Authors:Charles C. Mann (Author)
Other authors:Abby Weintraub (Cover designer)
Info:Vintage (2011), Edition: 2nd, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:history, Native Americans

Work details

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

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» See also 263 mentions

English (165)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (170)
Showing 1-5 of 165 (next | show all)
1491 and 1493 are almost a single book, because they have the same subject - the epochal transference of flora, fauna, bacteria, and people known as the Colombian Exchange. 1491 is about the Americas before the Exchange, outlining the different ways historians have tried to understand the various peoples who lived there and how that understanding has changed. Plenty of great discussion of the ecologies, demographics, and social complexities of the various civilizations, with an eye towards pointing out how fragile historical knowledge really is. There's no noble savage-ism here, just a great summarizing sweep from Tierra del Fuego to Ellesmere Island. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Read 2015. ( )
  sasameyuki | Apr 28, 2021 |
What were the Americas like before European contact? How many peoples lived on the continents? How many complex civilizations rose and fell before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Bahamas in 1492? How complex were these societies?

Mann attempts to locate answers for these burning questions. First and foremost, he is a journalist, not a specialist. And so, he meets with a slew of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians to hear their side and to see what they’ve discovered. The main argument is whether the Americas were highly populated or lowly populated before the clashing of the East and the Western hemispheres.

The book goes into detail about how the Indians sculpted their environment and whether doing so helped them or led them to their destruction. We learn about how Native Americans did controlled burning to renew the land and to prepare new crops. The Inca terraced the high mountains of the Andes to avoid flooding in the lowlands. Ancient civilizations like the Norte Chico and the Olmecs thrived in their respective territories and arrived THOUSANDS of years before the more well-known Maya and Inca! The Cahokia of North America had built great pyramids that rivaled those of ancient Egypt!

I learned a good amount about civilizations that thrived before Columbus. At the end of the book, there is no clear answer to the question of just how many people lived in these lands pre-contact. By measuring the sites that archaeologists have studied, scientists can only estimate how many lived in those societies but we’ll never truly know.

The only thought that I was left with after finishing the book, aside from the wonder and awe of what I had learned, was those ancient groups that we had lost. If only the Europeans had sent historians and anthropologists instead of conquistadors, poets and artists to record the beauty of these lands instead of clerics aiming to eradicate the Indians’ culture, the invaders arming themselves with not swords and lances but with quill and paper to record the knowledge from these peoples that are now sadly lost to history. ( )
  ProfessorEX | Apr 15, 2021 |
Really really good book. It made me angry, though, at how much the history I learned in school got wrong. And it's not as if the stuff talked about wasn't known in the 1970s and 1980s; I think it was just easier to stick to the old tropes. ( )
  ssperson | Apr 3, 2021 |
Recently finished "1491," and I found it to be a compelling read. I have not accepted all of the author Charles Mann's assertions as being necessarily true. However it has certainly changed my views of the pre-columbian Americas. I liked it so much I immediately started on Mann,s followup, "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created." ( )
  Chipa | Apr 2, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 165 (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.
 

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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.
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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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