In the doctor’s waiting room last week I was catching up on the back catalog of Atlantic Monthly, and I came across this cover story: 1492, by Charles Mann. The article is an account of the debate over what the Americas were like before it they were the “New World,” one of the more striking theories claiming that much of the Amazon forest may have been a human artifact constructed by the terraforming of an otherwise barren landscape. Mann paints a picture of thriving culture devastated by the influence of European “explorers,” who carried diseases that the unexposed population just couldn’t recover from.
This is the sort of research that makes you want to rush off to South America, Indana Jones style, despite the fact that you’re a professor and you’ve got classes to teach on Monday. So it’s settled, I’m growing a beard and taking up anthropology.