1491: the Americas before Amerigo


1491 – New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C Mann

Introduction – Holmberg’s Mistake

1. A View from Above

See: Nomads of the Long Bow for an account of the Siriono of Beni (Bolivia)


“In addition to building roads, causeways, canals, dikes, reservoirs, mounds, raised agricultural fields, and possibly ball courts [archaeologist Clark] Erickson has argued, the Indians who lived there before Columbus trapped fish in the seasonally flooded grassland. The trapping was not a matter of a few isolated natives with nets, but a society-wide effort in which hundreds or thousands of people fashioned dense, zigzagging networks of earthen fish weirds (fish-corralling fences) among the causeways. Much of the savannah is natural, the result of seasonal flooding. But the Indians maintained and expanded the grasslands by regularly setting huge areas on fire. Over the centuries the burning created an intricate ecosystem of fire-adapted plant species dependent on indigenous pyrophilia.”

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