2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Revelationary, Feb. 15 2012
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.
An Amazon improved upon ecologically by the native presence is revolutionary but could never be paralleled with modern methods and modern expectations. There are a great many arguments that support the need to preserve current wilderness areas in a regional and global context regardless of historic uses.
Europeans creating a wilderness rich with game as an unintended consequence of their arrival is another startling concept revealed in the book, a subject deserving of more attention. The theory that species such as passenger pigeons exploded when the native populations disappeared and the forests reverted to a wild state is plausible but not fully explained in the text. Subjects like this provoke further discussion.
You can't read a book like this without becoming thoroughly engaged in the subject. I'm anticipating more of the same in Mann's next work, 1493.