What an amazing book! 1491 will set you straight about what was really going on before Columbus came to the Americas in 1492. For a long time it was taught that the Americas did not have very many people like the other continents. This turns out to be false - at times some of the cities in the Americas had greater populations than any European cities of the same time period. There were, in fact, as many or even more people in the Americas at certain periods than there were in the Old World. Mann discusses this topic and why the Old World explorers thought there were very few Indians.
For many centuries, it was thought that the Native Americans or Indians were not as intelligent or civilized as the people of the Old World, and this, too, is being proved false. Mann shows what the Americas were really like by reviewing the new discoveries of archaeological sites throughout the Americas that show that Indians were on a high level of civilization and culture. Some were at a level of having accurate calendars, mathematics, astronomy, agriculture and other cultural aspects connected with civilization - some Indian civilizations had come up with the number zero before some European and Asian civilizations had. Mann also shows that the Indians discovered the wheel, but found it not useful for them; they used wheels on their toys. Mann also explores the idea that Native Americans were here in the Americas much earlier than first thought.
There were several empires or civilizations even before the Incas and the Aztecs came to power, and Mann discusses them and how they were discovered. The Incas (or Inkas) built their empire from other empires they either conquered or incorporated. The Aztecs and Incas had not been around that long at the time the Spanish conquered them. The great civilizations were not limited to Central and South America. In the United States, one such civilization comprised the Indians connected with Cahokia in Illinois and the other mound builders. Native Americans, indeed, have a rich and long history.
Charles Mann provides lots of black-and-white illustrations and maps throughout which greatly enhance the book. Complementing this fascinating read are endnotes, an extensive bibliography, and an index.
Mann is the author or coauthor of five previous books, including The Second Creation: A History of Particle Physics (1996), At Large (1998), Material World (1995), Noah’s Choice (1995), and Aspirin Wars (1991). He is a correspondent for Science and The Atlantic Monthly. He has also written for the New York Times Magazine, Technology Review, The Washington Post, Wired, and other publications in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
1491 is recommended to those interested in the pre-Columbian world, Native Americans, and archaeology. Public and academic libraries will want to add this book to their collections.