From the book jacket: 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
Comment: 1491 is a very readable account of the history of the American people before the lands were 'discovered' by Europeans in 1492. For example, far from being simple hunter-gatherers, the evidence suggests that pre-Columbian Indians developed corn in a process described by the journal Science as 'man's first, and perhaps greatest, feat of genetic engineering'; Native Americans created large chunks of the prairies by burning down the forests that covered them; Amazonian Indians actively farmed the rainforest focusing on tree crops, and in 1491 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe! Although some of what Mann writes remains controversial, much is now mainstream thinking amongst archaeologists and anthropologists. The mystery is why the American school books continue to teach that Columbus arrived in 1492 to a veritable Eden untrammeled by man!
'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. Including an extensive bibliography, this excellent archaeological synthesis is highly recommended....' - Library Journal.
This review was originally published in September 2005, and has been updated for the October 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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