Saturday, April 28, 2012
This fascinating book by Charles C. Mann book uses new evidence and recent scholarship to paint a vivid picture of the Americas -- pre-1492.
There is so much information ( you can read a good summary HERE) that is new and startling ( to me, at least) that I'll just note three of the points that surprised me.
One: When European settlers arrived, they found a sparsely populated land -- not realizing that diseases brought by explorers many years before had wiped out at many as 10 million natives in North America and many more than that in Central and South America.
Two: What seemed to those settlers like virgin land had, in fact, been shaped by thousands of years of occupation and manipulation -- fires to open up areas for grazing animals being one example.
Three: I know, of course, about the cities of the Aztec and Maya in Mexico and Central America, as well as those of the Inca in Peru. But I didn't know that, in what is now Illinois, in the 1100s there was a city of fifteen thousand people that covered five square miles -- larger than London at the same time. Check out Cahokia.
There's so much more -- and so much to think about. When I remember what the textbooks of my youth had to say about the original inhabitants, I am once more reminded that what we're taught in school isn't necessarily true.
And talk about illegal immigration. . .