The most recent book I’ve finished, however, represents a departure from this pattern, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbusby Charles C. Mann. While not an exhaustive historical study of the Americas before Columbus, it is a nice summary of some of the new thinking that is being coming from archeologists regarding the indigenous societies that existing before Columbus and the accompanying European diseases arrived to the Western Hemisphere in 1492.
Mann is not an historian or archeologist, nor does he pretend to be. He does, however, manage to distill some very complex arguments and controversies into a very readable account of the current state of thought about Indian societies, and how it completely differs from the accounts that most of us were taught in school.
Here are some highlights of the new information that he narrates. This list is not exhaustive, but only some of the more interesting areas to me:
- One of the earliest civilizations arose independently in Peru, about the same time or only shorter after Sumer in the fertile crescent
- Maize, which has no apparent genetic precursors may be one of humankinds more important inventions as a product of genetic engineering
- Disease, notable smallpox, may have killed as many as 90 percent of the inhabitants of the Americas in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century—making the Americas much more inhabited that usually thought
All and all, it was an entertaining read.
NP: "No More Sorry" - My Bloody Valentine