2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelationary
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...
Published 22 months ago by wildnfld
16 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An incorrect argument
Often when developing a certain argument, some authors become so enamored by the argument that they get carried away by the beauty of their argument to the exclusion of the facts. Such is the case here.
The fact is, what we have found out about the human occupation of the Western Hemisphere, both in the archaeological record for the extended period prior to...
Published on Sept. 1 2005 by Quentin R. Bass II
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelationary,
This review is from: 1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (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.
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WELL WRITTEN SUMMARY OF RECENT SCHOLARSHIP ON OCCUPATION OF THE AMERICAS BEFORE COLUMBUS,
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.
Particularly interesting is the section on the Amazon forest, in which the author describes the Amazon not as virginal forest but rather an a human construct, a large garden manipulated by ancient inhabitants, now abandoned. Evidence of these people's technology can be found in unlikely places, such as in the formation of terra preta, a highly fertile soil in a land well known for poor soils for agriculture. Additionally, the raised fields of the Bolivian Amazon also point to a highly sophisticated and organized society that would need to be surplus producing in order to spare the manpower for such great public works.
An interesting addendum to his argument is about the freedom enjoyed by antive americans, which is much more similar to the freedom we enjoy today and seek to expand, than the Europeans at the time enjoyed. The author does a superb job of piecing together evidence from across the continent to come to interesting conclusions about our ancestors.
I highly recommend this book not only to anyone interested in the history of the Americas before Columbus, but to anyone looking for an interesting read about our history as humans.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a refutation,
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware of Extrapolating Conclusions without Adequately Examining the Necessary Evidence,
Accurately describing the past is tricky business. Part of the problem comes in being unaware of our own thinking habits that stall our ability to perceive accurately what is in front of us. More significantly, lots of partial evidence can point in a variety of directions, many of which may be ignored. Further, there's a tendency to pick a view that will draw attention . . . causing "spectacular" explanations over more cautiously chosen ones. Ultimately, it's just that the past is so large, complex, and shifting that it's beyond our power to capture.
1491 is not so much about what life was like before Columbus in North and South America as it is about the methodological and intellectual problems with identifying what has gone before us . . . particularly in the absence of written records that we can decipher and understand. In the course of exploring this broad theme, Charles C. Mann does a solid job of contrasting traditional beliefs about pre-Columbian times (small populations of "uncivilized" people who lived in the middle of a nearly pristine environment, little changed over thousands of years) with more recent scholarship that suggests the Americas may have had enormous populations relative to Europe that were soon decimated by disease from Europeans, very sophisticated civilizations, and advanced practices for controlling the environment that we would do well to emulate today. I came away with an appreciation that tracking down what really happened is probably the work of many future centuries of research. In any event, those who "assume" European superiority in 1491 can learn a lot from reading about the contrary evidence as described by Mr. Mann.
The book's main weakness is that it doesn't have a simple thesis and structure. Ostensibly focused on new research, the book often tells about the new findings in such a leisurely and anecdotal way that what you learn is more at the factoid level than in fleshing out a picture of what happened. As a result, there's a lot of "what if" information here that's not likely to be fully confirmed or denied anytime soon. You'll come away realizing the you need to keep an open mind about many aspects of life in the Americas before 1492 without being able to firmly state what did occur . . . with the exception of descriptions of conquests among some of the larger empires. I found the book's photographs and maps greatly helped to make the scientific studies come to life so I could integrate what was being said into a personal perspective.
Mr. Mann is very fair in presenting questions and rebuttals from scholars about hypotheses and competing conclusions so that you won't feel as though you only have the choice of accepting all the latest studies without question.
My overall reaction to the book was to want to learn more about these studies. I hope that scholars in these subjects will be encouraged to publish well-illustrated books at the popular science reading level for those who would like to know more about the lessons from earlier civilizations that we should be applying today. Inquiring minds will be interested, I'm sure.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Response to a one star reviewer,
This review is from: 1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Paperback)Did Mr Bass read past the dustcover of this excellent book? If he had then he should have mentioned that 1491 embodied recent research, duly presented with counter-arguments that acknowledged archaelogists and scientists are still learning about what it was like in the Americas before 1492. The dated perspective espoused by Mr. Bass has no place in the discussion.
If you are interested in what scientists and archaeologists think today (not 30 years ago) about the peoples and societies of Americas before Columbus came to the Americas, then read this book!
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing,
This review is from: 1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Paperback)This book was amazing - i don't know why something about pre-Columbian Americas has not been written already like this - it is well researched and expands across the north and south americas. it describes the what and the why - something in between reading a story a a history class. Must read for the history buffs!
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting, resonant reminder of a tremendous lost society,
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As the author sprinkles stories of massively complex societies across the continent like seeds, the whole lost world seems to be called back from the dead and come alive. The cultures that were (masterfully) revealed were so completely different and yet they worked, and impressively so! Huge, intricate societies were founded on such radically different ideas that it almost seems impossible. They could never work today. Magic. And yet no one seems to know about this lost world. Far from being popular culture, it's like a huge swath of the world's culture was wiped clean off the map in 1492 and no one has since looked back. That's how the book sinks it's teeth into you, you feel privileged to be able to read the stories. And even just how some of the research was salvaged through long winding adventures is in itself compelling enough.
These people and their myths were so beautiful, original, radical and different, so strong, ingenious and clever, at times ruthless and crushing... That new and strange spirit is what uplifted me most; I feel like it is almost exactly what is lacking in our society. Like as though humans have been living, amputated from this particular arm of the human spirit, oblivious that we're missing something, that we aren't whole. I suppose it can be said that we're amputated from many other cultures that have been wiped from the world, but this story is somehow different, special. I felt rekindled.
I read the book almost a year ago and since then I have read countless other books about pre-colombian history and I've found that 1491 really was a great introduction to the spirit, passion, and tragedy of the old continent. There were some slower parts in the book that some may find stalling, but I was riveted from start to finish and it sparked something in me that has been gleaning ever since.
I'm haunted and beckoned to this day by the tragedy and magnitude of the loss. Highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening and thought provoking,
4.0 out of 5 stars Sheds much light on Pre-columbus americas,
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a review - a short response to previous review,
I haven't read this book and can't speak to the author's specific arguments, but to reject it because of the previous reviewer's positions would be inappropriate.
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1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (Paperback - Oct. 10 2006)
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