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BookBrowse Reviews 1491 by Charles C. Mann

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1491

New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann

1491 by Charles C. Mann X
1491 by Charles C. Mann
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2005, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2006, 528 pages

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Riveting and fast-paced - debunks much of what we thought we knew about pre-1492 America. History

From the book jacket: Traditionally, Americans learned in school that the ancestors of the people who inhabited the Western Hemisphere at the time of Columbus’s 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.

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 The BookBrowse Review in September 2005, and has been updated for the November 2006 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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