Authors: Charles C. Mann,Peter (nrt) Johnson
1. A View from Above
PART ONE /
Numbers from Nowhere?
2. Why Billington Survived
3. In the Land of Four Quarters
4. Frequently Asked Questions
PART TWO /
Very Old Bones
5. Pleistocene Wars
6. Cotton (or Anchovies) and Maize (Tales of Two Civilizations, Part I)
7. Writing, Wheels, and Bucket Brigades (Tales of Two Civilizations, Part II
PART THREE /
Landscape with Figures
8. Made in America
10. The Artificial Wilderness
11. The Great Law of Peace
For the woman in the next-door office—
Cloudlessly, like everything else
NATIVE AMERICA, 1491 A.D.
The seeds of this book date back, at least in part, to 1983, when I wrote an article for
about a NASA program that was monitoring atmospheric ozone levels. In the course of learning about the program, I flew with a research team in a NASA plane equipped to sample and analyze the atmosphere at thirty thousand feet. At one point the group landed in Mérida, in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. For some reason the scientists had the next day off, and we all took a decrepit Volkswagen van to the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá. I knew nothing about Mesoamerican culture—I may not even have been familiar with the term “Mesoamerica,” which encompasses the area from central Mexico to Panama, including all of Guatemala and Belize, and parts of El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, the homeland of the Maya, the Olmec, and a host of other indigenous groups. Moments after we clambered out of the van I was utterly enthralled.