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1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus Paperback – Oct 10 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (Oct. 10 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400032059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400032051
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In a riveting and fast-paced history, massing archeological, anthropological, scientific and literary evidence, Mann debunks much of what we thought we knew about pre-Columbian America. Reviewing the latest, not widely reported research in Indian demography, origins and ecology, Mann zestfully demonstrates that long before any European explorers set foot in the New World, Native American cultures were flourishing with a high degree of sophistication. The new researchers have turned received wisdom on its head. For example, it has long been believed the Inca fell to Pizarro because they had no metallurgy to produce steel for weapons. In fact, scholars say, the Inca had a highly refined metallurgy, but valued plasticity over strength. What defeated the Inca was not steel but smallpox and resulting internecine warfare. Mann also shows that the Maya constructed huge cities and governed them with a cohesive set of political ideals. Most notably, according to Mann, the Haudenosaunee, in what is now the Northeast U.S., constructed a loose confederation of tribes governed by the principles of individual liberty and social equality. The author also weighs the evidence that Native populations were far larger than previously calculated. Mann, a contributor to the Atlantic Monthly and Science, masterfully assembles a diverse body of scholarship into a first-rate history of Native America and its inhabitants. 56 b&w photos, 15 maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Science journalist Mann proves audacious as a surveyor of pre-Columbian history, for few topics are so fraught with controversy. Emanating from the academic, activist, and environmental arenas, the disputes share a revisionist drive to dismantle the popular perception that the New World was a pristine wilderness in balance with its inhabitants. Accordingly, Mann opens with an episode familiar to most Americans, the Plymouth colony of the Pilgrims and its salvation by the friendly Squanto, or Tisquantum, his proper name, according to Mann. Indian altruism toward encroaching Europeans was never quite convincing, so following a discerning inquiry into Tisquantum's more likely motivations, with his Wampanoag people devastated by disease, Mann discusses examples of when warfare abruptly terminated Indian history, as with Pizarro and the Inka (formerly the Inca). Drawing upon the research of recent decades, Mann constructs fascinating narratives of Indian empires, interweaving theories about their rise and fall that are debated by specialists in archaeology, physical anthropology, linguistics, and ecology. Mann had to master an impressive breadth of material but better yet is his clarity and judgment, which meld into a compelling and balanced introduction for general readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Format: Hardcover
There has been much scholarly discussion over the years about pre-Columbian societies in the Americas. How many were there? What technologies did they develop? Did they have writing? What destroyed them? Where is the evidence?

In this book, Charles Mann brought together much of the recent scholarly knowledge, piecing together evidence from across North, Central and South America, to come up with a cohesive image of what the Americas looked like in terms of human occupation before Columbus.

The book's main arguemnt is that the Americas were already heavily populated with as many as 20 million people when Columbus arrived. These people possessed technology very advanced that was not, as much of history tells, puny and weak compared to what Europeans had developed. Agricultural methods were advanced and very productive, providing the basis for the establishment of large sedentary populations, much larger than previously thought. These large populations were mainly destroyed by disease. What we see today are in fact the remaining population after the equivalent of a holocaust, which is hardly a good basis to judge their capabilities and one time glory.

To demonstrate this theory, evidence is gathered from archeology and ancient reports from travellers. From most 16th century explorers, we get a picture of a heavily populated landscape, both in the southeastern US and in the Amazon. However, explorers through the same regions roughtly a century later describe a landscape of peaceful nature without large human interventions. The archeological evidence, as more is discovered, points in the direction of large populations and many characteristics (such as religion and art) of sedentary populations.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Bransby-williams on Aug. 16 2006
Format: Hardcover
Having read 1491 I find myself in disagreement with Mr Bass. I am neither archiologist or anthropologist but do have a keen interest in history. I feel that Mr Mann makes a good case for the North American Indian population having an impact on their environment beyond that previously thought. It is interesting that recently a University of Calgary professor was on the news, announcing that in his research he had come to the conclusion that the plains Indians were far more numerous and socially organised than previously thought. He felt that the traditional image of small groups of nomadic stone age hunters had to be re-examined. He fell short of suggesting that these same groups were probably the remanents of the largely inadvertant genocide that saw, what is likely, the largest human die off in history. The implication has to be there and Charles Mann addresses this time and again. 1491 is a compelling and worthy read and there is no compunction to accept every argument as gospel, even Mann provides the material with acknowlegment that there are opposing points of view. As for Mr Bass why as a member of the USDA why is he writing to
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By wildnfld on Feb. 15 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a very compelling work, rife with revelation amounting to a rewrite of the history of the Americas. It is a well referenced volume with extensive use of footnotes, maps and diagrams to clarify an emerging, more complete picture of our history. Inspired by recent groundbreaking discoveries made with the aid of technological advances, it makes for an eye opening account of a rich heritage not previously afforded by scholars. Imagine for example knowledge of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and other founding civilizations buried by a tumultuous past event suddenly coming to light. This is every bit as revealing. To think that the Americas once housed such great cultures in parallel with the known world is truly inspiring. Mann is an entertaining writer who overcomes the constant need to reference facts with dramatic detail, thought provoking insight and who also can surprise us with an occasional colorful metaphor.

As a Canadian I was disappointed and somewhat puzzled that we were for the most part omitted, especially since I live on the island of Newfoundland who's native population, the now extinct Beothuck were first encountered by the Norse who arrived centuries before Columbus to settle in Lanse aux Meadows. The Beothuck inspired the term Red Indian with their use of red ochre as ceremonial face paint. The use of the term to describe natives in general was inaccurate but well intended in that regard.

The discovery of an historically cultivated Amazon is unexpected but should not detract as the author suggests from efforts to preserve parts of the jungle that have reverted
to a completely natural state. The notion of civilizations overextending their reach and succumbing to environmental degradation is a universal theme that reverberates in the book.
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By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 3 2014
Format: Paperback
This book takes archaeology way beyond delving into ruined structures -- to examinations of region-wide environmental management systems. Beyond the large numbers of ruined towns and monuments left in the wake of the great Western epidemics, Mann shows the staggeringly vast evidence of environmental engineering across the hemisphere. Even the Amazon basin yields a universe of population centers and managed landscapes. The ruins of these civilizations lie all around us, and we hardly noticed because we hardly looked. Both the miscalculations and the successes of these civilizations can be traced, and their stories are dramatic. In a deliberate effort to dispel the impression that pre-Columbian cultures were simple, Mann includes enough complexity to leave the reader confused but intrigued. The best thing, however, is that the successes of these societies, such as the forms of permaculture developed in Oaxaca, Amazonia, Peru, or New England, offer renewed hope for the future of intelligent design.
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