Charles C. Mann: 1491 fifteen years later

Reflections on environmental history over 500 years

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This week on Unsupervised Learning Charles C. Mann, author of 1491, 1493, and The Wizard and the Prophet joins Razib, to delve into the history of the Americas, and a broader theme that runs through Mann’s work – how human societies and their environment are inseparably intertwined.   

Mann’s work goes a long way towards dispelling the myth that the Americas were an untamed wilderness before the arrival of Europeans, scarcely populated and unshaped by the hand of man prior to Christopher Columbus. He describes a New World then peopled by complex societies with huge populations, possessing a well-developed toolkit of biological technologies for engineering the natural world, managing ecological succession, and diversifying food production strategy, all arguably superior to that of their European conquerors.  

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