I just finished listening to the 9 CD
unabridged abridged audiobook, 1491 – New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann, that I checked out from the library.
What was civilization like in the Americas before Columbus arrived in the New World?
1491 debunks much of what we what we were taught about America before the arrival of Columbus.
Did the Incas fall to Pizarro because they had no metallurgy to produce steel for weapons or was it because a smallpox epidemic ravaged the community, killing 1/3 of the population, including many of the leaders, and led to internecine strife.
Most American history books describe the continents before 1492 as a vast, sparsely populated, underused territory, whose primitive peoples could not stand up to the advanced technologies of the Europeans.
But the author argues that smallpox and other diseases were inadvertently introduced by the Europeans. Without immunity and without a knowledge of how to quarantine an infectious disease, these diseases swept across the continent faster than the explorers who brought it. What they “discovered” was a land stripped of the thriving cultures that had existed for centuries.
The Native American cultures were quite heterogeneous and possibly more advanced socially in many ways than their counterparts in Europe. These first Americans were not the noble savages who left no mark on their world nor dreamy proto-environmentalists who lived in static harmony with nature.
Instead, the author contends they were a far more urban, more populated, and much more advanced people, who developed maize, tomatoes, and other vegetable and radically engineered their landscape, possibly even creating “timeless” natural features including the Amazon rain forest.
Going back further in history, the author brings together more recent discoveries and theories of archaeologists, anthropologists, paleolinguists, and others to make the case that the first inhabitants may not have walked over the Bering land bridge around 12,000 B.C. but may have come along the Pacific coast by boat up to 20 thousand years earlier.
An interesting read. I highly recommend it.