Review: 1491–New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

1491

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Extraordinary, Inspires Need for 183 Other “Lost History” Studies, January 27, 2008

Charles C. Mann

Paul Hawken recommended this book during a Seattle lecture introducing his latest book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. It took me a while to get to, but it is certainly an extraordinary achievement, and it has enormous meaning for future studies of both lost histories of 183+ indigenous cultures and languages, and for a new appreciation of how humans can and should shape the environment, not just try to protect it.

The maps alone are a treasure, and are complemented by perfectly selected photographs and graphics, including one on page 144 that documents the deaths of 50 million indigenous Indians in Mexico alone, over the course of a 100 years from 1518 to 1623. The maps highlight the extraordinary contribution of this book and this author in documenting the scope and sophistication and massive numbers of native Americans across both continents, and with some documentation going back to 5000 BC.

The author opens by pointing out, as “Holmberg’s Mistake,” the long-standing incorrect views that history began in 1492, and that the indigenous people’s were few in number and lacked any semblance of influence or “agency” over what historians over hundreds of years assumed was a “state of nature” in which the indigenous humans were nothing more than a higher state of animal.

The book, which comes with 140 pages of endnotes, is world-class scholarship and world-class investigative journalism. It compellingly documents an Inka Empire spanning a continent in the 15th century and before, with 25,000 miles of roads that last to this day. Tens of millions, many languages, a great deal of trade, sophisticated culture with metalurgy and stone masonry equal to or superior to the Europeans.

I was particularly impressed by the author’s description of how language analysis, looking for common words or syllables, helped to document a breadth of unique languages going far back in time.

Overall the book documents how the introduction of smallpox from humans and many other pandemic diseases from pigs that spread to wildlife and then humans, killed perhaps 100 million indigenous American Indians (north and south).

The book ends, appropriately for our time, with a section on the Five Nations of native American Indians who in the early 17th Century were practicing the Great Law of Peace. The Chinese brought Dick Cheney’s airplane down over Singapore with precision electronic pulses, and have demonstrated that they can sneak up on our carriers and also immobilize or neutralize are mobility and weapons systems which are completely unprotected against advanced electronic warfare. Simultaneously, the Chinese are waging peace across the southern hemisphere, and rapidly displacing the US and Europe as the primary external actor (see my one-page memorandum on Chinese Irregular Warfare).

I mention other books below that are relevant to the larger issue of “what can we know” about the past or about reality that can help us craft a future that delivers a good life for all, including the five billion poor, a prosperous world at peace. I am persuaded that the emphasis on secret intelligence and military “might” has gone a long way toward destroyed the Earth and Humanity’s hopes. The ten books below do not include any books I have written, edited, or published, but I do want to mention that they are all free online at OSS.Net, or more recently, Earth Intelligence Network, where we have posted the new edited work, “COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace.”

See also:
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
The Lessons of History
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography
Organizational Intelligence (Knowledge and Policy in Government and Industry)
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition
The Age of Missing Information
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom