Thursday, July 27, 2006

Book post Don't know if this was linked to or not: The Old New World
It is a rare textbook on world history that does not begin its account of the past in the Western Hemisphere with the European invasion that took place soon after the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Almost all of the achievements of Pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations have been systematically neglected or depreciated by most Western-oriented scholars. How was it that small bands of gold-hungry conquistadores could have defeated the armies of empires with populations that numbered in the millions? Was much of North America an almost empty land waiting to be developed by more advanced colonists?

In his ambitious new book, 1491, accomplished science writer Charles C. Mann provides answers to such questions and poses many more that have been raised by recent anthropological and archaeological research. He concludes that in 1491 the Western Hemisphere was (as it had been throughout much of its long history) "a thriving, stunningly diverse place, a tumult of languages, trade, and culture, a region where tens of millions of people loved and hated and worshipped as people do everywhere."

Review by Michael Coe. This book seems generally pretty good although I haven't read it yet (just a few perusals at local bookstores) and Coe gives it a thumbs-up. Unrelated to the book itself (mostly), I noticed this: In an interesting appendix, he explains why he uses the word "Indian" to describe the hemisphere's indigenous peoples, a choice that fits with my own observation that American Indian friends of mine prefer "Indian" or "Indian people" to "Native American," which to them smacks of white paternalism and political correctness.

Don't know how widespread this sentiment is, but. . . .and here, for perhaps the first time in the history of ArchaeoBlog. . . .an explicit opinion on a controversial (kind of) subject: We should all call them 'Amerindians'. There. I did it! 'Aboriginal Americans' is probably more precise, but too much of a mouthfull to use (and type) regularly.