1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Written by:
Charles C. Mann
Narrated by:
Darrell Dennis

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
August 2016
16 hours 17 minutes
A groundbreaking study that radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492.

Traditionally, Americans learned in school that the ancestors of the people who inhabited the Western Hemisphere at the time of Columbus’s landing had crossed the Bering Strait twelve thousand years ago; existed mainly in small, nomadic bands; and lived so lightly on the land that the Americas was, for all practical purposes, still a vast wilderness. But as Charles C. Mann now makes clear, archaeologists and anthropologists have spent the last thirty years proving these and many other long-held assumptions wrong.

In a book that startles and persuades, Mann reveals how a new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques came to previously unheard-of conclusions. Among them:

• In 1491 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe.
• Certain cities–such as Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital–were far greater in population than any contemporary European city. Furthermore, Tenochtitlán, unlike any capital in Europe at that time, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens, and immaculately clean streets.
• The earliest cities in the Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great pyramids.
• Pre-Columbian Indians in Mexico developed corn by a breeding process so sophisticated that the journal Science recently described it as “man’s first, and perhaps the greatest, feat of genetic engineering.”
• Amazonian Indians learned how to farm the rain forest without destroying it–a process scientists are studying today in the hope of regaining this lost knowledge.
• Native Americans transformed their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already massively “landscaped” by human beings.

Mann sheds clarifying light on the methods used to arrive at these new visions of the pre-Columbian Americas and how they have affected our understanding of our history and our thinking about the environment. His book is an exciting and learned account of scientific inquiry and revelation.
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Initially I found this book interesting and he gives a lot of good information on the status of Native American society prior to 1492. He builds a very good case for people in the Americas being very advanced, which is not a view portrayed in many history books. He does seem to spin some complex stories around very little evidence at times. It seems later in the book he began to ramble and seemed to jump from north to south America, and forward and back thousands of years at times without taking a breath. It did also start to feel redundant as when revisited stories from the Beni region several times. I still have 2 hours left of this 16 hour book but not sure I can finish it. If you are interested in Native American culture prior to 1492 then this is a useful book. If you are looking for a engaging read that will keep you turning pages, then this may not be your book.

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Marc K.

Thought provoking and very worthwhile book.

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Andrew S.

it was great. very educational

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Javier P.

I am a Caribbean Taino and I think the information he put forth is an account of who we are as indigenous people before Europeans. An the fact that it is our land and not any one body of any government.

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Carlos B.

Excellent book on pre-western America. The book is a great collection of cultures and situations in a non-chronological way backing up certain premises the author wants to explain. It absolutely woke an interest to read much more!

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Changed my perspective on many of the ecological functions in the Americas.

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Jeff M.

Mind completely blown plain and simple. It’s hard to find words to describe the feeling, when all the sudden you’re eyes are opened to a new way of thinking. The experience is priceless.

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Ashley S.

the book is unorganized and incredibly boring. I couldn’t get past the first 10 pages without having to reread because there was no story line. stop giving this book to apush classes to read.

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Joshua V.

Awesome summarized read of Indian history. Mann really knew how to take a crazy amount of information and stick it through a compressor that only leaves the juicy stuff.

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Amazing book. Personally, I never had an education on anything in the Americas before the pilgrims arrived to find backwards savages with no history. If the book has "no focus" it is because Mann seems to simply provide the most expansive and objective data we have discovered on the histories of American populations. To me, it felt like he alternated between exciting (maybe narrative is the right word) histories, and then dry technical backgrounds on data collection. I loved it. So enjoyable. I purposely chose this book because of my complete lack of knowledge, and I was not disappointed at any time.

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incredible,one thing history so much enjoyable.

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Other reviews have stated the book is all over the place and it is a bit. However, if you can past that, it’s an awesome book with so much information and insight.

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Elise S.

I agree with the other reviewers that this book wanders all over the place -- North America and then South America and then Central America all in one chapter. He makes some interesting points and "connects the dots" on what various researchers, archeologists, historians, geologists, etc. are doing in their own fields. Narration was excellent.

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Chris F.

I wish it were good. Good topic, poorly organized. Sorry.

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James R.

The author created a novel like history of the America's before the European invasion. He used interviews, site visits, reports and publication from current academic, scientific and applied researchers concerning the early inhabitants of the Americas. I found the book incredibly interesting and well supported by specialists in the fields of archeology, anthropology, biology, geology, genetics, and many other fields. I enjoyed the historical research perspective and the evolution of its findings and conclusions. Also noteworthy are the comparisons to European culture during the same periods for a good perspective. While some, possibly many of the conclusions, are controversial the portrayal of the findings and conclusions appear logical and well supported. It definitely made you think and in many parts made you reconsider your previous beliefs about early indigenous populations. I like the book and thought the narrator did an excellent job conveying the material.

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Was all over the place. A lot of interesting facts. But, Not sure where he was going. There was no focus.

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