Friday, February 15, 2013

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

[August 2009] In 1491, the author provides a succinct summary of many of the different theories of the "Indian" history in pre-Columbian America. He often presents a scenario, followed with "or maybe it never happened", and then follows it up with another scenario. Within the book, he presents brief histories of many of the early inhabitants of the American continents, complete with their culture, origins and fall. The most recent scholarship is presented along with old "knowledge" about the groups. The narrative is well written and surprisingly cohesive, considering the broad topic. (Despite the title, it is not about '1491', but instead about the entire history of the non-European inhabitants of the Americas. The focus is primarily on pre-columbian times, but it also provides fairly detailed coverage of the 'interaction' with the early European inhabitants.)

One of the key points that is made is that the various "Indians" had many different advanced civilizations, and were it not for their susceptibility to European diseases they may still be the dominant inhabitants of the American continents. The historical "savage" view of Indians or the politically correct "noble environmentalist" views are all somewhat misleading. The early American inhabitants likely had plenty of good qualities as well as bad qualities, and were made up of very different groups with differing degrees of urbanization and "civilization". They also did much to change their environment to suit their needs.

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