America,  Book Reviews,  History,  Latin America/Caribbean,  NON FICTION

1491 by Charles C. Mann *** (of 4)

Mann skewers nearly every myth I learned in K- College about Native Americans. They didn’t walk across the Bering Strait to settle the Americas. They’ve been in the hemisphere more than 10,000 years. Their populations were enormous. Their cultures, even in the densest part of the Amazon, which incidentally is about as natural a forest as the one in Central Park, were sophisticated, political, hierarchical, culturally and scientifically more advanced in most cases than Europeans of the same time period. They didn’t invent wheels, because they were useless in the mud and sure-footed llamas were more effective at climbing steep hills than the European’s skittish horses could ever be. And their weapons and armor were in many cases at least as effective as European guns. Mann can write. He’s riveting when he’s telling stories that open chapters. He’s great at translating science into English. The book, especially the middle third, is a tad long. January 2006.