Who were the Beni in Charles mann's book, 1491?

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The Beni, as Mann describes it, is “a Bolivian province about the size of Illinois and Indiana put together, and nearly as flat.” In the first chapter of 1491, “A View from Above,” Mann describes his visit with U.S. archaeologists Clark Erickson and William Balée, and their interactions with numerous inhabitants of the region. He refers to the view from above to emphasize how different the landscape looks from the air.

Among the contemporary peoples living in the Beni, the Sirionó are the most well-known, in part because of Alan Holmberg’s study, Nomads of the Long Bow, which provided negative views of their culture that promoted mistaken impressions for decades.

Although it was long known that numerous indigenous groups inhabited the area, it was thought that they lived in the savannah and that the nearby forests had seen no human habitation. The works of William Denevan in the 1950s, and Erickson, Balee, and others since about 1900, have greatly expanded knowledge of the early habitation of the area, and in many ways completely contradicted previous ideas. From the air, remnants of old raised fields that ancient people used for agriculture are clearly visible. Archaeologists have done considerable excavation in this area.

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Actually, the better question is "Where was Beni?"  It is a flatland area between Brazil and Bolivia, and it serves as part of the thesis of the book 1491,where Mann writes that the native groups who lived in the Americas did not live in a Garden of Eden; rather, they exerted change on their environments by cutting trees, selectively burning the savanna, and trapping fish.  Also, all of this happened thousands of years ago and may even pre-date the Bering Land bridge that attempted to explain how all native groups started from a band of Asiatic nomads.  Mann attempts to explain the mounds of Beni not as happenstance or religious but as elevated platforms that allowed the people of the area to grow trees and crops.  He also states that there was a commerce that went from the region to other parts of Central and South America.  This new work in native anthropology is a growing field in history that attempts to modify it from its European-centric narrative.  

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