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1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbusby Charles C. Mann
Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking study that radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492.
Traditionally, Americans learned in school that the ancestors of the people who inhabited the Western Hemisphere at the time of Columbuss landing had crossed the Bering Strait twelve thousand years ago; existed mainly in small, nomadic bands; and lived so lightly on the land that the Americas was, for all practical purposes, still a vast wilderness. But as Charles C. Mann now makes clear, archaeologists and anthropologists have spent the last thirty years proving these and many other long-held assumptions wrong.
In a book that startles and persuades, Mann reveals how a new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques came to previously unheard-of conclusions. Among them:
• In 1491 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe.
• Certain cities-such as Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital-were far greater in population than any contemporary European city. Furthermore, 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.
• Pre-Columbian Indians in Mexico developed corn by a breeding process so sophisticated that the journal Science recently described it as “mans first, and perhaps the greatest, feat of genetic engineering.”
• Amazonian Indians learned how to farm the rain forest without destroying it-a process scientists are studying today in the hope of regaining this lost knowledge.
• Native Americans transformed their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already massively “landscaped” by human beings.
Mann sheds clarifying light on the methods used to arrive at these new visions of the pre-Columbian Americas and how they have affected our understanding of our history and our thinking about the environment. His book is an exciting and learned account of scientific inquiry and revelation.
"Mann has done a superb job of analyzing and distilling information, offering a balanced and thoughtful perspective on each of his themes in engaging prose." Library Journal
"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....An excellent, and highly accessible, survey of America's past." Kirkus Reviews
"In sum, Mann tells a powerful, provocative and important story — especially in the chapters on the Andes and Amazonia." Alan Taylor, the Washington Post Book World
About the Author
Charles C. Mann is a correspondent for Science and The Atlantic Monthly, and has cowritten four previous books including Noahs Choice: The Future of Endangered Species and The Second Creation. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has won awards from the American Bar Association, the Margaret Sanger Foundation, the American Institute of Physics, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others. His writing was selected for The Best American Science Writing 2003 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003. He lives with his wife and their children in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
List of Maps
INTRODUCTION / Holmbergs Mistake
1. A View from Above
PART ONE / Numbers from Nowhere?
2. Why Billington Survived
3. In the Land of Four Quarters
4. Frequently Asked Questions
PART TWO / Very Old Bones
5. Pleistocene Wars
6. Cotton (or Anchovies) and Maize (Tales of Two Civilizations, Part I)
7. Writing, Wheels, and Bucket Brigades (Tales of Two Civilizations, Part II)
PART THREE / Landscape with Figures
8. Made in America
10. The Artificial Wilderness
11. The Great Law of Peace
A. Loaded Words
B. Talking Knots
C. The Syphilis Exception
D. Calendar Math
From the Hardcover edition.
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