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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

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Darrell Dennis

16 Hours 17 Minutes

Random House (Audio)

August 2016

Audio Book Summary

A groundbreaking study that radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492.

Traditionally, Americans learned in school that the ancestors of the people who inhabited the Western Hemisphere at the time of Columbus’s landing had crossed the Bering Strait twelve thousand years ago; existed mainly in small, nomadic bands; and lived so lightly on the land that the Americas was, for all practical purposes, still a vast wilderness. But as Charles C. Mann now makes clear, archaeologists and anthropologists have spent the last thirty years proving these and many other long-held assumptions wrong.

In a book that startles and persuades, Mann reveals how a new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques came to previously unheard-of conclusions. Among them:

• In 1491 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe.
• Certain cities–such as Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital–were far greater in population than any contemporary European city. Furthermore, Tenochtitlán, unlike any capital in Europe at that time, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens, and immaculately clean streets.
• The earliest cities in the Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great pyramids.
• Pre-Columbian Indians in Mexico developed corn by a breeding process so sophisticated that the journal Science recently described it as “man’s first, and perhaps the greatest, feat of genetic engineering.”
• Amazonian Indians learned how to farm the rain forest without destroying it–a process scientists are studying today in the hope of regaining this lost knowledge.
• Native Americans transformed their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already massively “landscaped” by human beings.

Mann sheds clarifying light on the methods used to arrive at these new visions of the pre-Columbian Americas and how they have affected our understanding of our history and our thinking about the environment. His book is an exciting and learned account of scientific inquiry and revelation.

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Reviews

  • Anonymous

    Amazing book. Personally, I never had an education on anything in the Americas before the pilgrims arrived to find backwards savages with no history. If the book has "no focus" it is because Mann seems to simply provide the most expansive and objective data we have discovered on the histories of American populations. To me, it felt like he alternated between exciting (maybe narrative is the right word) histories, and then dry technical backgrounds on data collection. I loved it. So enjoyable. I purposely chose this book because of my complete lack of knowledge, and I was not disappointed at any time.

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  • Anonymous

    incredible,one thing history so much enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Other reviews have stated the book is all over the place and it is a bit. However, if you can past that, it’s an awesome book with so much information and insight.

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  • Elise S.

    I agree with the other reviewers that this book wanders all over the place -- North America and then South America and then Central America all in one chapter. He makes some interesting points and "connects the dots" on what various researchers, archeologists, historians, geologists, etc. are doing in their own fields. Narration was excellent.

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  • Chris F.

    I wish it were good. Good topic, poorly organized. Sorry.

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  • James R.

    The author created a novel like history of the America's before the European invasion. He used interviews, site visits, reports and publication from current academic, scientific and applied researchers concerning the early inhabitants of the Americas. I found the book incredibly interesting and well supported by specialists in the fields of archeology, anthropology, biology, geology, genetics, and many other fields. I enjoyed the historical research perspective and the evolution of its findings and conclusions. Also noteworthy are the comparisons to European culture during the same periods for a good perspective. While some, possibly many of the conclusions, are controversial the portrayal of the findings and conclusions appear logical and well supported. It definitely made you think and in many parts made you reconsider your previous beliefs about early indigenous populations. I like the book and thought the narrator did an excellent job conveying the material.

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  • Anonymous

    Was all over the place. A lot of interesting facts. But, Not sure where he was going. There was no focus.

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