What evidence does Charles Mann use to support his thesis in the book 1491?

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In Mann's book 1491 he uses a great deal of anthropological evidence. He notes that agriculture and trade were quite complex well before Columbus arrived in 1492. He does this by discussing the findings in burial mounds. He also explains that domesticated animals such as chickens appear around signs of human habitation that are older than originally expected. Mann's goal is two-fold: he wishes to overturn the idea that human civilization in the Americas is directly related to humans coming across the Bering land bridge while hunting prehistoric animals. Mann also wants to overturn the Eurocentric concept of history by showing that the early Americans interacted with their environment and actually acted upon it in ways similar to other people groups living around the world at that time. Mann also uses early reports from the Pilgrims who explained that the Native Americans used slash-and-burn methods to partially clear forests in order to plant their crops. By using science and primary sources, Mann makes a strong statement for reexamining Native American history before Columbus.

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One of the remarkable things about Charles Mann’s 2005 book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, is the variety of evidence he marshals to support his thesis. He uses anthropological evidence such as native artwork and masks; archaeological evidence such as geoglyphs and canals; geographic evidence such as landscape and forest analysis and maps; ecological evidence such as tree analysis; ethnographic evidence collected about American indigenous peoples; historical evidence such as sixteenth-century ethnographic treatises and polemics; epidemiological evidence such as disease studies; botanical and palynological evidence from pollen and plant studies; agricultural evidence such as the farming patterns and diets of American indigenous peoples; even linguistic and mathematical evidence such as the Olmec culture’s invention of the concept of zero. He also builds his argument on and in response to secondary sources such as textbooks and other works that have reproduced damaging stereotypes and misconceptions about American indigenous societies. For more information, I would suggest reading the preface and introduction to 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, the eNotes summary (linked below), and the following two articles.

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