Re: New world populations

Domingo Martinez-Castilla (
Mon, 19 Dec 1994 21:54:55 GMT

In article <wisicu-1912940139560001@> (Lee Sultzman) writes:
>Population estimates of the total native population of the Western Hemisphere
in>1492 range from ten million in the low range upwards to 150 million on the
high>side. With that much of a range one has to suspect that the figure
arrived at>usually depends on what the writer is trying to prove. Best
estimates of recent>origin seem to point to something in the 60 to 90 million
range, or rough>equivalent to the population of Europe during the same period.

The canonical book on American pre-contact population, first edited in 1976
(identical, except for foreword, including new "estimates" of Denevan's), is
the following:

Denevan, William M. (editor)
The Native population of the Americas in 1492 (2nd edition)
University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wis.
353 pp

E59.P75 N37 1992

The articles there are, IMO, strill very current and actual, and do not know
of too many improvements in the topic. (Denevan makes an arithmetic average
of all the estimations, but I do not ever quote it because it gives the same
weight to each of the main estimates. Denevan agrees with not giving too much
importance to his averages.)

>The big killers were the European diseases that they inadvertantly brought with
>them which quickly spread into areas that the Spanish never reached. In the
>southeastern United States, these are believed to have been responsible for the
>deaths of three quarters of the original population by 1600.

That is true, true, true. The real conquerors were not Europeans, but lowly
bugs. See "The Arrow of Disease" by Jarred Diamond, Discover magazine,
October (+/- one month?) 1993.

(I am sorry I will not be able to follow up this thread... till January).


Domingo Martinez-Castilla