In 1491: NEW REVELATIONS OF THE AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS, Charles C. Mann presents an accessible history that effectively wipes away generations of high-school teaching that trivialized, dismissed, or was just flat-out wrong about the peoples that inhabited what we have come to call the Americas prior to the contact with Columbus. Mann presents a huge amount of fascinating information, including how the Indians made their way to the new continents by crossing the Bering land bridge or riding warm sea currents from Japan. He describes the land as it was in their time, and how the Indians changed it, making plains where forests had been, and the rise of extensive and complex cities that rivaled those of Europe. He focuses primarily on the Incas and the Mexica (popularly called the Aztecs), as well as the Indians of New England, who encountered the Pilgrims. Drawing on a "tsunami" of research in the field of Native American studies, Mann, a science writer, offers an expanded view of the New World, synthesizing research in anthropology, population and demographics, agriculture and technology, and geography and archeology. He also touches on what happened to these people after the arrival of Europeans, considering in particular the impact of European-based diseases that decimated the populations. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2005.

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