Curmudgeonalia
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January 7, 2007

1491

New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Charles C. Mann – ISBN – 9781400032051

This “sweeping portrait” of human life long before Columbus found (?) the New World catalogues and explores a wealth of information in one volume. For two or three decades I have been reading such materials, and most of that information is included in this volume. Twenty years ago some of these data were not accepted by archaeologists. Even now some of it is not, along with several (in my opinion) glaring omissions.

In 1491 the Incas ruled an empire far more vast than Ming China, Ivan’s Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and the Aztec empire which was itself larger than any European state: “a thriving, stunningly diverse place, a tumult of languages, trade and culture.” All ended with Columbus, most without any contact with the old world invaders.

Over a thousand years ago there were cities in the Americas which dwarfed the population centers of Europe, and probably Asia. Very sophisticated cultures existed which often depended upon sciences and farming techniques which have yet to be explored, explained or understood. For instance, hundreds of thousands, and perhaps several million people lived in South America’s tropical rain forests, sustained by sophisticated agriculture in an area that now can barely support groups of 50 "aboriginals." These folk are obviously descended from them, but have no idea of prior cultures or their technologies. Neither do we!

It is estimated that at least 9 of 10 people in the Americas died within little more than a century of discovery . . . the vast majority from European diseases. Indeed, DeSoto described the Mississippi region as teeming with cities. A century later, with the first re-exploration by whites, they were met by . . . nothing! Only wilderness with a few scattered troops of natives.

I recommend this read because of its inclusion of volumes of information, well written and organized. However, I have several issues with the author.

• One is his fawning interpretation of the freedoms “learned” by the colonists, accustomed to the "overarching tyranny” of European elites—he alleges—which colonists were able to “get away” from their masters, having observed how liberated were the Amerinds. He appears to be one of those who honestly believe that American society was founded upon the principles of the Iroquois nation, overlooking English history from well before the Magna Carta, and totally eliminating the Celts from consideration.

• Another is his knee-jerk acceptance of the about to be overturned notion that the Amerinds all arrived via the Bering Strait, failing as it does to account for primitive remains in California, and even southern South America which predate the land route between the glaciers by 20,000 to as much as 100,000 years.

• As well, he avoids the suggestion that at least one ancient dig off the California coast is felt by some to exceed 500,000 years . . . and may even represent the site of origin of Homo Sapiens, rather than Africa. I find the latter issue particularly interesting, inasmuch as the so called "Clovis Points" found in New Mexico are not only identical to those found amongst the Cro-Magnons in Spain but predate them by over 25,000 years!! Cro-Magnon is considered to be the first modern homosapien to appear on the continent after the ice age, and no one knows where he came from!

I wonder . . . do you?

Posted by respeto at January 7, 2007 1:01 PM