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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus Paperback – October 10, 2006
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Mann is well aware that much of the history he relates is necessarily speculative, the product of pot-shard interpretation and precise scientific measurements that often end up being radically revised in later decades. But the most compelling of his eye-opening revisionist stories are among the best-founded: the stories of early American-European contact. To many of those who were there, the earliest encounters felt more like a meeting of equals than one of natural domination. And those who came later and found an emptied landscape that seemed ripe for the taking, Mann argues convincingly, encountered not the natural and unchanging state of the native American, but the evidence of a sudden calamity: the ravages of what was likely the greatest epidemic in human history, the smallpox and other diseases introduced inadvertently by Europeans to a population without immunity, which swept through the Americas faster than the explorers who brought it, and left behind for their discovery a land that held only a shadow of the thriving cultures that it had sustained for centuries before. --Tom Nissley
A 1491 Timeline
|Europe and Asia||Dates||The Americas|
|25000-35000 B.C.||Time of paleo-Indian migration to Americas from Siberia, according to genetic evidence. Groups likely traveled across the Pacific in boats.|
|Wheat and barley grown from wild ancestors in Sumer.||6000|
|5000||In what many scientists regard as humankind's first and greatest feat of genetic engineering, Indians in southern Mexico systematically breed maize (corn) from dissimilar ancestor species.|
|First cities established in Sumer.||4000|
|3000||The Americas' first urban complex, in coastal Peru, of at least 30 closely packed cities, each centered around large pyramid-like structures|
|Great Pyramid at Giza||2650|
|32||First clear evidence of Olmec use of zero--an invention, widely described as the most important mathematical discovery ever made, which did not occur in Eurasia until about 600 A.D., in India (zero was not introduced to Europe until the 1200s and not widely used until the 1700s)|
|800-840 A.D.||Sudden collapse of most central Maya cities in the face of severe drought and lengthy war|
|Vikings briefly establish first European settlements in North America.||1000|| |
|Black Death devastates Europe.||1347-1351|
|1398||Birth of Tlacaélel, the brilliant Mexican strategist behind the Triple Alliance (also known as the Aztec empire), which within decades controls central Mexico, then the most densely settled place on Earth.|
|The Encounter: Columbus sails from Europe to the Caribbean.||1492||The Encounter: Columbus sails from Europe to the Caribbean.|
|Syphilis apparently brought to Europe by Columbus's returning crew.||1493|
|Ferdinand Magellan departs from Spain on around-the-world voyage.||1519|| |
|1525-1533||The smallpox epidemic sweeps into Peru, killing as much as half the population of the Inka empire and opening the door to conquest by Spanish forces led by Pizarro.|
|1617||Huge areas of New England nearly depopulated by epidemic brought by shipwrecked French sailors.|
|English Pilgrims arrive at Patuxet, an Indian village emptied by disease, and survive on stored Indian food, renaming the village Plymouth.||1620|
|*Courtesy Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, Ill., painting by Michael Hampshire. **Courtesy Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, N.M. (Bernardino de Sahagún, Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, 1547-77).|
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The tale is breathtaking in its scope. But is it true? The author of 1491 acknowledges that the new theories are controversial. For example: everyone agrees the Europeans brought diseases which wiped out large numbers of Indians. But not all agree that the original population was anywhere near the levels claimed. And many researchers contend that structures claimed to be of human origin, such as the Beni causeways in Bolivia, are actually of natural origin. This reader withholds judgement until a lot more evidence is forthcoming. However, everyone interested in history owes it to themselves to read this spellbinding story of an America that just might have been, and then watch as it is either confirmed or refuted by continuing, widely based research.
Several visitors at Cahokia, and a few of my friends, recommended that I read 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, written in 2005, by Charles C. Mann.
Mr. Mann relies heavily on the work of Dr William I. Woods, a geography professor at University of Kansas. I have found a book Envisioning Cahokia: a Landscape Perspective, co-authored by Dr. Woods. Not an easy read, but I am currently tackling it to see if I can learn more.
I have recently finished 1491 (Vintage Books, second edition, July 2011) and I have a few observations. Some of the things the author states as "facts" about Cahokia are speculation. Some of the things he says are clearly incorrect.
This makes me question the rest of the book.
The best known landmark at Cahokia is Monks Mound. Standing 100 feet high, with four terraces and a base of 14 acres, Monks Mound is the largest earthen structure in the Americas.
Mr. Mann tells us that "the elite revamped Monks Mound. By extending a low platform from one side, they created a stage for priests to perform ceremonies in full view of the public." (pg303)
The first terrace of Monks Mound is a late addition and it very well may have been used as a stage to address large gatherings in the forty acre Grand Plaza. I mention this in my tours, but point out that it is speculation.Read more ›
The first popular myth is that the Indians were a bunch of primitive savages just keeping the land warm until superior Europeans showed up. It's sad to read reviews here that assert that because Indians used stone tools they were therefore "stone age", with the implication that their culture was no further advanced than that early period.
The second myth makes the Indians into proto-flower-children, naively and simply in tune with their environment.
Both myths are based on stereotyping and are condescending to the pre-Colombians. How could people spread over two continents and many millennia be briefly summarized? They can't be! The Americas saw the development of a broad range of cultures, just like every other inhabited area of the world. Some cultures overstressed their environment and soon collapsed. Others created stable conditions under which they could survive for generations. (Which is not the same as saying they didn't impact nature.) But even the latter could be brought down by climate change, political instability, disease (especially European), or contact with outsiders (Indian or European).
Great cities arose in mesoamerica and the Andes, and also in other areas when the right conditions prevailed. And sophisticated cultures existed even where city building wasn't favored.
This book takes the reader through a vibrant overview of centuries of Indian culture both before and shortly after Columbus landed.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A well told history of of the Western Hemisphere before 1492. A good read.Published 4 days ago by Frank P. Robertson
Captivating, enlightening and beautifully written. A treasure trove of information.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
When I first heard of the book I was listening to an interview with the author on NPR. The concept of the book sounded interesting and I have to say that it didn't disappoint.Published 8 days ago by Robert Hamilton
This is an eye-opening review of the scientific literature about the first inhabitants of the Americas. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Jennifer Calderone
this book led me to a complete reassessment of the history of USA and exploded the myth that it was established in a virtual empty place except for a few Indians wandering around. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Edward P. Pettit
When I first read 1491, much of it seemed like grand speculation but as I've learned more about recent discoveries in The America's, the speculations are gaining merit. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Joe Hollywood
This book finally gives americans a new way to
interpret history! Not from the winner's perspective,
but the loser!
FINALLY! Read more