Re: New world populations

MBAWilliam (
18 Dec 1994 22:00:04 -0500

In article <>, (Richard
Spear) writes:

>At an end-of-semester party last night a discussion began around the
>entree into the new world. Remembering my Las Casas (but probably not
>accurately!), I stated that the native population in the Carribean and
>North America had been decimated by the Spanish invaders and that
>had been killed. The professors at the party (none expert in this area)
>responded by saying that there weren't that many indigeonous peoples
>slaughtered and that there weren't too many around when the Spanish
>anyway. I replied that there had been as many as one hundred million
>peoples in the New World in 1492 and that millions *had* been slaughtered
>50 years or so.

>Now I'm re-reading Las Casas, Diaz and De Vaca and trying to make some
>of this. I'm also trying to remember where I heard the figure (admittedly
>high estimate) of one hundred million for a New world population. Anyone
>a reading list for this material? I think that I may be re-visiting an
>discussion ... if so, could someone point me to a faq or thread?

According to Dobyns' "An Appraisal of Techniques with a New Hemisphere
Estimate" _Current Anthro_ 1966, you, not your colleagues, are correct.
His estimates put the pre-Columbian New World population at 90 million,
with a mortality rate of around 95% during the first fifty years of
European invasion. Although these estimates have been challenged in
recent years (I have additional citations, but they're packed in
boxes...let me know if you want them and I'll dig them up), for the most
part they only decrease Dobyns' estimates by perhaps a third to a half,
leaving a sizable population of 50 to 70 million, and not the *paltry few*
your friends proclaim. Do they also subscribe to the theory that the
Mid-Continental mounds were built by lost Europeans? Just wondering....


MB Williams, WesU GLSP