Mann's book centers on new evidence of intensive agriculture, particularly in the Amazon Basin, an area previously written off because of poor soil. Recent discoveries of vast tracts of "dark earth," incredibly fertile soil altered by humans capable of supporting bumper crops year after year (always found packed with pottery shards), as well as recent surveys of vast, incredibly numerous berms, mounds, plazas, causeways, and raised fields in Amazon floodplains previously disregarded as natural formations, contrary to the earlier reviewer's claims, now challenge old assumptions about human settlement there, particularly the model argued for by Meggers. Contrary to the reviewers claims, the majority of the new generation of anthropologists and archaeologists either disagree with Meggers or at least believe that old theories about the Amazon merit reconsideration in light of new evidence. These contentions are met with the usual demonizing below.
Mann's book has a broad focus, including the impact of smallpox, and human migration to the Americas, areas where there is similarly heated debate. Mann is upfront about this, and lets you know where he stands. He's also upfront about the zillions of political agendas at play (not merely the revisionist agenda the reviewer notes below). Mann doesn't claim any of these new theories are fact, only that there IS evidence supporting new lines of inquiry. Where things are speculative he says so.
Agree with Meggers or the new wave, but don't dismiss this based on the review below. This IS legit discussion in the anthro community, not fiction like Menzies laughable 1421. Make up your own mind. I found this very interesting (being an anthrogeek), although a bit overbroad. Mann isn't a theorist himself, he's just summarizing new theories and models. Time and research will bear out which camp is right...maybe neither. This is NOT UFO, Atlantis, or El Dorado stuff here, just agriculture and demography.
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