• 1491

  • New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
  • By: Charles C. Mann
  • Narrated by: Darrell Dennis
  • Length: 16 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Release date: 08-29-16
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • 4.4 (498 ratings)

Regular price: $35.00

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Publisher's Summary

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' landing had crossed the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago; existed mainly in small nomadic bands; and lived so lightly on the land that the Americas were, for all practical purposes, still a vast wilderness. But as Charles C. Mann now makes clear, archaeologists and anthropologists have spent the last 30 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.
©2016 Charles C. Mann (P)2016 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

"In the tradition of Jared Diamond and John McPhee, a transforming new vision of pre-Columbian America." (Richard Rhodes)
"Every American knows it was a vast new world that Columbus found in 1492, and most imagine it was a thinly peopled paradise of plants, animals, and hunter-gatherers waiting for civilization. The reality, Charles C. Mann tells us in his startling new book about the world before Columbus, is very different - two continents teeming with languages, cultures, and mighty cities as big, as rich, and even more populous than the capitals of Europe." (Tom Powers)
"Charles C. Mann takes us into a complex, fascinating, and unknown world, that of the Indians who lived in this hemisphere before Columbus. He gently demolishes entrenched myths, with impressive scholarship, and with an elegance of style which that makes his book a pleasure to read as well as a marvelous education." (Howard Zinn)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Michael on 05-24-17

Thought Provoking

This was not really worth a 4, but it got extra points for interesting things to think about, even if not all were well supported. Despite the title, this is not a picture of the Americas in 1491, instead it looks at history in the Americas prior (and shortly after) 1491. It is less focused than I like in a history and a lot of the science quoted it disputed at best, but nevertheless were interesting (and offbeat). The author has a clear point of view, and does not always analyze evidence objectively. So take almost everything presented within with a grain (or more) of salt.

Nevertheless I recommend reading this, as the author, although bias, wears his bias on his sleeve, and presents the materials as alternative ideas to consider (and may become fully accepted in the future).

The book presents ideas about more advanced, more populous, more political, earlier arriving, and wider spread, early Americans that were differently (not less) developed than 1491 Europe.

I was dubious about some of the archaeological dates and analysis but I enjoyed thinking about many of the ideas presented. Particularly interesting was the possibility that some of the key features of US democracy and egalitarianism was based upon northeastern early America traditions and that US Northern anti-slavery and Southern pro-slavery might be related to the slavery beliefs of the early Americans in each area.

I found the narration excellent, clear, light and expressive and it did well with the many complex names.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful


By Calvin Guthrie on 09-29-16

Awesome Historic Accounting Well Told

Obviously extensively researched and told from as disinterested observer and not falling prey to temptation to editorialize these lives and cultures. The author takes obvious pains to not apply 21st century values and project them into what is already a deeply fascinating story on its own.
The actor was polished and clearly enunciated even difficult native names and places. Overall an excellent choice of narrator.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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