The Past and Pending

As someone who really likes history, and really likes epidemiology, this week’s reading was especially engaging. I will start with Lewis and Maslin’s “Defining the Anthropocene”. I have always been fascinated by how carbon-14 dating and other such methods are so able to date times long past. The parts of the paper that most stood out to me were when they talked about the methods that they used to track human impact. The part where they looked at preserved Maize pollen in Europe to determine when the first cross Atlantic trading occurred blew my mind. 

Onto the second paper, “From Columbus to COVID-19: Amerindian Antecedents to the Global Pandemic,” by George Lovell. I really enjoyed the way he broke down the impacts of disease location by location. I also find it interesting how much debate there is over how many people originally lived here in the Americas before colonization took off. The only records we have are of the local people writing of almost total societal collapse, and of the Spanish just treating the Native Americans like cattle. Because of this, coming to a total is very difficult. There is also a pretty big leap in the estimated number of people originally along the 1900’s. The earliest cited paper, Kroeber 1939, estimated a mere 8.4 million native Americans originally. Compare this to the figure of 60.5 million from Maslin and Lewis. History, especially this sort of stuff that we aren’t really taught about in high school, really interests me. It also begs the question, what would have happened if these societies never broke down right as the Spanish came to attack.

Lewis and Maslin, “Defining the Anthropocene,” Nature (March 2015), excerpt: “Collision of the Old and New Worlds” (p. 174-175)

Lovell, “From Columbus to COVID-19: Amerindian Antecedents to the Global Pandemic,” Journal of Latin American Geography (July 2020), 177-185

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