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History

America Before Columbus

History books traditionally depict the pre-Columbus Americas as a pristine wilderness where small native villages lived in harmony with nature. But scientific evidence tells a very different story: When Columbus stepped ashore in 1492, millions of people were already living there. America wasn’t exactly a New World, but a very old one whose inhabitants had built a vast infrastructure of cities, orchards, canals and causeways.


The English brought honeybees to the Americas for honey, but the bees pollinated orchards along the East Coast. Thanks to the feral honeybees, many of the plants the Europeans brought, like apples and peaches, proliferated. Some 12,000 years ago, North American mammoths, ancient horses, and other large mammals vanished. The first horses in America since the Pleistocene era arrived with Columbus in 1493.


Settlers in the Americas told of rivers that had more fish than water. The South American potato helped spark a population explosion in Europe. In 1491, the Americas had few domesticated animals, and used the llama as their beast of burden.

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