Charles C.Mann, 1491:New Revelations of America before Columbus,
2006: Vintage Books, N:Y., 541 pps.
February 24, 2009
“The Americas were immeasurably busier, more diverse, and more populous than had previously been imagined. And older too.” p.17
Unfortunately a census of the population is impossible. Scholars have placed the range of population in this hemisphere before Columbus as between 90 and 123 million people. Some 90 to 100 million died in the pandemic that swept the hemisphere after Columbus. (p 103-106)
The population of central Mexico dropped from 25M to 2 M in one century between 1518 and 1623. This hemisphere contained more people than China or India. Small pox, influenza, diphtheria, typhus, and measles devastated the population in the 16th Century. p102,
Corn, or maize, was genetically developed from a grass, teosinte, that looked nothing like today’s maize. Natives would grind corn, mix it with the juice of another plant, pat it out into tortillas. This became the major crop that allowed the population to grow. Sweet potatoes, the Irish potato, all the cucumber family, and a variety of beans were grown as crops. As the population exploded, the environment could not sustain the demands. More forests were cut down for crops. The story became one of innovation and collapse.
Astronomy, mathematics, the zero, and writing were developed. An accurate calendar was devised with 365 days per year. Construction techniques evolved to allow their massive structures. Interestingly, a toy has been found with a wheel, but they never transformed it into useful carts. Probably because they had no beast of burden and many roads passed through marshes. Only the alpaca was a part of the culture. Some researchers think
The big question is, “When did Asians come to this hemisphere. There is a general consensus that they arrived about 12,500 BC. (p192) The ice age was ending and the Beringer route through Alaska opened. Once in the territory they fanned out across the continent and made their way to Central America and into Peru and Brazil. The facts are that they came long before humans arrived in Europe, since the ice age had not opened up that territory. We are not the new world, we are the old world.
Some researchers think the temples, walls, and images were made not by prisoners from defeated tribes, but by the people in gratitude for their quality of life and the priest-kings who presided over the realms. The quantity and quantity of agriculture supported those dedicated to construction,
Poverty Point and Ouachita (Watson Break) in Louisiana are two of the oldest mounds known in America. Through out the Mississippi valley hundreds of mounds dot the landscape.
The land had sixty million bison roaming its prairies and fields, forty million pronghorns, ten million elk, ten million mule deer and two million mountain sheep. The sky was often filled with untold millions of carrier pigeons who could blacken the sky in migrations. They are now extinct.
Before Columbus Native Americans were burning undergrowth, clearing and replanting forests, building canals and raising fields, hunting bison and netting salmon, growing maize and manioc, tomatoes and peppers, sweet potatoes and “Irish” potatoes, plus varieties of squash. They were a keystone specie in most of the hemisphere.