In the last 20 years, archaeologists and anthropologists equipped with new scientific techniques have made far-reaching discoveries about the Americas. For example, Indians did not cross the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago, as most of us learned in school. They were already here. Their numbers were vast, not few. And instead of living lightly on the land, they managed it beautifully and left behind an enormous ecological legacy.
In this riveting, accessible work of science, Charles Mann takes us on an enthralling journey of scientific exploration. We learn that the Indian development of modern corn was one of the most complex feats of genetic engineering ever performed. That the Great Plains are a third smaller today than they were in 1700 because the Indians who maintained them by burning died. And that the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact.
Compelling and eye-opening, this book has the potential to vastly alter our understanding of our history and change the course of today's environmental disputes.
©2005 Charles C. Mann; (P)2005 HighBridge Company
"Johnson renders this thoroughly researched, well-written history of early North and South American Indian populations in a strong, clear voice, with excellent intonation. His diction is almost too perfect." (Publishers Weekly)
"Mann's 1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas and how we live with the environmental consequences of colonization." (The Washington Post Book World)
This book clearly outlines some amazing accomplishments by the New World's early inhabitants. It is full of information, but the information is provided at a pace and with enough narration that it reamins easy and entertaining to listen to, in contrast with one of my other favorite books, Jared Diamond's Collapse, that require full and undivided attention.
1491 is a 9-disc book, which says that what we learned about the Indians in school is wrong. Charles C. Mann reviews recent findings and says that an advance civilization was wipe out with the introduction of small pox. Mann believes that the Indians were in the ?new? world tens of thousands of years earlier than we were taught. 1491 was a interesting and presented a series of new theories of what the Americas were like prior to Columbus.
1491 is less a history than an argument for the theory that the New World was vastly more populated than we all learned in school. Where did everyone go? Unimaginable epidemics. But that's not the real point of the book. The real point is betrayed by the way the author uses the word "environmentalist" as a slur. His thesis is that man has been altering the New World environment since time zero, and that efforts to preserve the environment are foolish attempts to return to a Neverland that never was. The antienvironmentalist screed becomes cloying long before one gets through this very long book. Also annoying, as another reviewer has noted, is the author's frequent technique of desribing -- at length -- the history of a period or place and then saying "NOT!" and giving quite a different set of interpretations.
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