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.: 1491

» 1491, Charles C. Mann. Highly recommended.  
This is the best book I've read in years. Charles Mann makes the case that pre-Columbian Indian cultures were more populous than and certainly as sophisticated as other world cultures at the time of first contact with the Europeans.

Much of the book is spent describing what archaeologists think they now know about these utterly foreign and captivating nations. The world Mann portrays is, in its own way, as romanticized as the old stories of natives living lightly in a pristine wilderness, but he backs it up with convincing research. It's also a great read. Mann is a terrific writer, and between his skill as a storyteller and the fascinating cultures he describes, the book is a page-turner. Thanks to KK for the pointer. I give this one my highest recommendation. [ 02.11.06 ]


I recently finished this book and, as a scietist, wonder what the scientific community thinks of it. It's very compelling and certainly makes more sense than the standard historical accounts. Being in New England, I was fascinated by those accounts, which are lacking in the general knowledge.But the whole package is a disruption of held accounts. The charcoal in the Amazon was fascinating with my agriculatural/soils background. THere's almost too mush to discuss. I'd really like to know what the scientific community's reactio to it is.

As a grad student at UCLA in the '60s we occasionally were offered special seminars on important topics. The one I never forgot was how archeologists and anthropologists were reevaluating the size of the original Indian population--or to put it another way the percentage of population decline after 1492. I taught for a while and then left the field. On occasion I still read what looks like an interesting book on some aspect of L.A.

1491 is one such book, but one that gave me more than a jolt of excitement. It did what Diamond's, Guns . . . did. It took material that I was teaching but didn't quite know what to do with and gave it a believable context.

Of course Mann's book was very dependent on recent research and in effect he has written the book that one of those researchers should have written. One would hope that it would have been written by someone nearly as skilled with the English language.

I'd love to hear your comments.

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