1491 (second Edition): New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus

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1491 (second Edition): New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | October 10, 2006 | Trade Paperback

1491 (second Edition): New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus is rated 4.3333 out of 5 by 3.

In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.
 
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 576 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 1.17 in

Published: October 10, 2006

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400032059

ISBN - 13: 9781400032051

Found in: History

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spectacular! I could not put this book down. As an anthropologist I appreciate all of the hours of research and interviews that must have gone into this work. I was especially enthralled by the author's writing style which was scholarly, erudite and engaging but aimed at a mass market. What a wonderful way to educate the public by presenting history in such a readable, entertaining fashion.
Date published: 2012-03-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid piece of early history, and very engaging Jarrod Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, explained to us that the Europeans didn't conquer the Americas because they were culturally superior but because of a host of causes that don't credit or blame any of the peoples involved. In this book, Mann is explaining in greater detail what a growing body of evidence is saying about how advanced the Native American civilizations actually were. To be clear, this book isn't for everyone. I, for one, like studying the past, especially far past. Mann's writing is not that of a dry academic. His style is very approachable, readable, and even entertaining. He is neither a professional historian nor professional archaeologist. Yet his writing is credible thanks to the body of sources he quotes and refers to, and to his drawing of reasonable inferences. It's also the kind of book where you really appreciate just how damn hard it is to be certain about what really went on so long ago without corroborating written records. And, hey, isn't 1491 a great title?
Date published: 2010-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Spectacular This is a must read for everyone who is interested in indigenous Issues, well written, and engaging.
Date published: 2007-12-05

– More About This Product –

1491 (second Edition): New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 576 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 1.17 in

Published: October 10, 2006

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400032059

ISBN - 13: 9781400032051

About the Book

Mann offers a groundbreaking study that radically alters readers' understanding of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492.

Read from the Book

Why Billington Survived THE FRIENDLY INDIAN On March 22, 1621, an official Native American delegation walked through what is now southern New England to negotiate with a group of foreigners who had taken over a recently deserted Indian settlement. At the head of the party was an uneasy triumvirate: Massasoit, the sachem (political-military leader) of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of what is now southeastern Massachusetts; Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north; and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had reluctantly brought along as an interpreter. Massasoit was an adroit politician, but the dilemma he faced would have tested Machiavelli. About five years before, most of his subjects had fallen before a terrible calamity. Whole villages had been depopulated—indeed, the foreigners ahead now occupied one of the empty sites. It was all he could do to hold together the remnants of his people. Adding to his problems, the disaster had not touched the Wampanoag’s longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west. Soon, Massasoit feared, they would take advantage of the Wampanoag’s weakness and overrun them. Desperate threats require desperate countermeasures. In a gamble, Massasoit intended to abandon, even reverse, a long-standing policy. Europeans had been visiting New England for at least a century. Shorter than the natives, oddly dressed, and often unbearably dirty, the
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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Preface

INTRODUCTION / Holmberg’s Mistake

1. A View from Above

PART ONE / Numbers from Nowhere?

2. Why Billington Survived
3. In the Land of Four Quarters
4. Frequently Asked Questions

PART TWO / Very Old Bones

5. Pleistocene Wars
6. Cotton (or Anchovies) and Maize (Tales of Two Civilizations, Part I)
7. Writing, Wheels, and Bucket Brigades (Tales of Two Civilizations, Part II)

PART THREE / Landscape with Figures

8. Made in America
9. Amazonia
10. The Artificial Wilderness
11. The Great Law of Peace

Appendixes
A. Loaded Words
B. Talking Knots
C. The Syphilis Exception
D. Calendar Math

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index



From the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.
 
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.

About the Author

Charles C. Mann is a correspondent for Science and The Atlantic Monthly, and has co-written four previous books including Noah’s Choice: The Future of Endangered Species and The Second Creation. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has won awards from the American Bar Association, the Margaret Sanger Foundation, the American Institute of Physics, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others. His writing was twice selected for both The Best American Science Writing and The Best American Science and Nature Writing. He lives with his wife and their children in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Editorial Reviews

“A journalistic masterpiece.” —The New York Review of Books “Marvelous. . . . A sweeping portrait of human life in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. . . . A remarkably engaging writer.” —The New York Times Book Review   “Fascinating. . . . A landmark of a book that drops ingrained images of colonial American into the dustbin, one after the other.” —The Boston Globe “A ripping, man-on-the-ground tour of a world most of us barely intuit. . . . An exhilarating shift in perspective. . . . 1491 erases our myth of a wilderness Eden. It replaces that fallacy with evidence of a different genesis, exciting and closer to true.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer “Mann tells a powerful, provocative and important story. . . . 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 “Engagingly written and utterly absorbing. . . . Part detective story, part epic and part tragedy.” —The Miami Herald “Provocative. . . . A Jared Diamond-like volley that challenges prevailing thinking about global development. Mann has chronicled an important shift in our vision of world development, one out young children could end up studying in their text books when they reach junior high.” —San Francisco Chronicle “Marvelous. . . .&
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Bookclub Guide

US

1. Mann begins the book with a question about our moral responsibility to the earth’s environment: Do we have an obligation, as some green activists believe, to restore environmental conditions to the state in which they were before human intervention [p. 5]? What does the story of the Beni tell us about what “before human intervention” might mean?

2. What scientists have learned about the early Americas gives the lie to what Charles C. Mann, and most of us, learned in high school: “that Indians came to the Americas across the Bering Strait about thirteen thousand years ago, that they lived for the most part in small, isolated groups, and that they had so little impact on their environment that even after millennia of habitation the continents remained mostly wilderness” [p. 4]. What is the effect of learning that most of what we have assumed about the past is “wrong in almost every aspect” [p. 4]?

3. There are many scholarly disagreements about the research described in 1491. If our knowledge of the past is based on the findings of scholars, what happens to the past when scholars don’t agree? How convincing is anthropologist Dean R. Snow’s statement, “you can make the meager evidence from the ethnohistorical record tell you anything you want” [p. 5]? Are certain scholars introduced here more believable than others? Why or why not?

4. Probably the most devastating impact from the contact between Europeans and Americans came from the spread of biological agents like smallpox. Of Mann’s various descriptions of the effects of foreign diseases on the Americas’ native populations [pp. 96—124], which are most shocking, and why? How do you respond to his questions on page 123: “In our antibiotic era, how can we imagine what it means to have entire ways of life hiss away like steam? How can one assay the total impact of the unprecedented calamity that gave rise to the world we live in?”

5. In the nineteenth century, historian George Bancroft described pre-contact America as “an unproductive waste. . . . Its only inhabitants were a few scattered tribes of feeble barbarians, destitute of commerce and of political connection” [pp. 14—15]. To what degree is the reflexive ethnocentrism of earlier times responsible for the erroneous history of the Americas we have inherited?

6. When Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto brought pigs along on his expedition in order to feed himself and his men, the pigs carried microbes that apparently wiped out the Indian populations in the southeast part of the current United States [p. 108—09]. While this episode illustrates the haphazard quality of biological devastation, how does it also connect 1491 to our contemporary world, in which the media reports daily on scientists’ fear of diseases like avian flu jumping from animal to human populations? In our present global environment, are we as vulnerable as the Indian tribes discussed by Mann? Are there, as he suggests, moral reverberations to be felt as a result of the European entrance into the Americas five centuries ago [p. 112]?

7. Several of the cultures discussed by Mann honored their dead so highly that, in effect, the dead were treated as if they were still alive. What is most interesting about the attitudes toward death and the dead found in the Chinchorro [pp. 200—01], the Chimor [p. 264], and the Inka [p. 98] cultures?

8. Much of America’s founding mythology is based on the idea of the land as an untouched wilderness, yet most scholars now agree that this pristine myth [p. 365] was a convenient story that the early settlers told themselves. What kinds of actions did the myth support, and how did it serve the purposes of the settlers?

9. Because of the lack of documentary and statistical evidence for the mass death caused by disease in the New World, experts have argued about the size of the pre-Columbian population. The so-called High Counters, according to their detractors, “are like people who discover an empty bank account and claim from its very emptiness that it once contained millions of dollars. Historians who project large Indian populations, Low Counter critics say, are committing the intellectual sin of arguing from silence” [p. 112]. Yet those who count low, Indian activists say, do so in order to diminish not only the mass death suffered by indigenous peoples, but also the significant achievements of their pre-contact cultures. Which side does it seem Charles Mann leans toward? Which side do you find more believable?

10. Consider Mann’s remark about what was lost because of the destruction wrought by Cortés and others: “Here, at last, we begin to appreciate the enormity of the calamity, for the disintegration of native America was a loss not just to those societies but to the human enterprise as a whole. . . . The Americas were a boundless sea of novel ideas, dreams, stories, philosophies, religions, moralities, discoveries, and all the other products of the mind” [p. 137]. How might the world have been different had the ancient cultures of the Americas survived into the present?

11. Mann writes, “Native Americans were living in balance with Nature–but they had their thumbs on the scale. . . . The American landscape had come to fit their lives like comfortable clothing. It was a highly successful and stable system, if ‘stable’ is the appropriate word for a regime that involves routinely enshrouding miles of countryside in smoke and ash” [p. 284]. Why did the Indians burn acres of land? Does Mann suggest that there are the ecological lessons for our own time in the Native Americans’ active manipulation of their environment?

12. Using the words of Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, Mann explains that a “keystone” species is one “that affects the survival and abundance of many other species”; Mann adds that, “Keystone species have disproportionate impact on their ecosystems” [p. 352—53]. Indians were a keystone species in most of the hemisphere before the arrival of Columbus. What force led to their greatly diminished importance in the evolution of the hemisphere’s ecosystems? If our species now has an even greater impact on the world ecosystems, does Mann suggest ways to avoid disasters such as those he delineates in 1491?

13. Discussing foreign environmentalists’ opinions about saving the Amazonian forests, Mann raises a problem with the whole environmental movement: Those in poverty-stricken areas like Amazonia want development and jobs; wealthy, well-educated people in the U.S. and Europe tend to want to preserve these forests [pp. 363—64]. How can this problem be resolved?

14. The Gitksan Indians of Canada’s Northwest have argued a case in the Supreme Court of Canada that “the Gitksan had lived there a long time, had never left, had never agreed to give their land away, and had thus retained legal title to about eleven thousand square miles of the province” [p. xi]. What are the implications of such a claim for the various peoples and tribes that Mann discusses in 1491, and for the descendants of European settlers?

15. What does Mann mean in saying, “Understanding that nature is not normative does not mean that anything goes. . . . Instead the landscape is an arena for the interaction of natural and social forces, a kind of display, and one that like all displays is not fully under the control of its authors” [p. 365—66]?

16. People have long believed that being in the wilderness conveys a sense of the sacred. Mann explains, “The trees closing over my head in the Amazon furo made me feel the presence of something beyond myself, an intuition shared by almost everyone who has walked in the woods alone. That something seemed to have rules and resistances of its own, ones that did not stem from me” [p. 365]. What happens to this idea of a non-human force in nature if, as Mann concludes, the concept of nature is a human creation?

17. Why does Mann end 1491 with a coda on the Haudenosaunee “Great Law of Peace,” and what resonance does it have for the book as a whole?