America before Columbus
by Charles C. Mann
Charles Mann’s book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus (Knopf, 2005) won the US National Academy of Sciences’ 2006 Keck Award for the best book of the year. In this lecture he looks at new research on pre-Columbian America. Mann concludes that the Americas had been heavily populated and developed before the arrival of Columbus but then were rapidly depopulated by the introduction of European and African diseases, giving Europeans the mistaken idea that the land was a vast, empty wilderness.