1491

Just started reading this book, ‘1491, New Revelations Of the Americas Before Columbus‘ . Columbus reached Caribbean on October 12th 1992. This is considered such an important event that time before that is considered Pre-Columbian, and in America and  Spain, Columbus day is celebrated. Hence the book name 1491.

This book is about refuting the commonly held view that people who inhabited Americas were mainly in small. nomadic bands and most of the landmass was uninhabited. This is a great books so far. It talks about how in there were more people living in Americas than in Europe at the same time. Though I think, Americas does not only include US but North as well as South America. He talks about Mayan as well as Inca cultures. Anyway I just started reading it but it is certainly is a great book to know the other history of these huge continents.  It claims that cities such as Tenochtitlan had more people that any other contemporary European city, including Paris. This city had running water, gardens and clean streets unlike any other European cities. I do get the claim of street though I don’t know how they knew streets were clean :).

Anyway, I learned some interesting facts that I did not know before…

  1. Massachusett was a cluster of several dozen villages, around Massachusett Bay. All of these people spoke Massachusett, a family of languages. Massachusett was thus the name of the family off language as well as group of people that spoke it.
  2. Pocahontas was actually a nickname that meant something like “Little Hellion” and the girls actual name was Mataoka, who was a princess in training.
  3. Inca culture, who had one of the biggest empires of all the time, had a strange way of writing/memorizing information that was very different than any other thing in the world. Surely Egyptian hieroglyphics as well as Sumarian cuneiform signs are cryptic to us as they are more based on symbols rather than than speech based scripts of most modern languages (what we speak is what we wrote, for a nerd that is a wwsiwww). khipu or Ouipu was a method of conveying the information through knotted strings. There is a primary cord and then there are secondary cords dangling from primary cords. These secondary cords have knots that mean something. Khipukamayuq, “Knot keeper” parsed the knots both by inspecting them visually as well as by running fingers through them. Apparently in 1542, Spanish governor, Cristobal Vaca de Castro, assembly all knot reader to read the strings to assembly the history of Inca empire. When he found out they contradicted  Spanish version, he ordered all Khipu records to be burnt. Only about 600 of records survived the fire. Since no Rosetta stone has been found here yet, scholars still disagree if the Khipu was actually written form of a language or just way to remember things, a mnemonic devices. If the it was really a script then they are the only know intrinsically 3-D written documents. Now that is amazing!
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