Empty Spaces Researcher Says America Never Had That Many Indians

By 1995, Reuters News Service | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 16, 1995 | Go to article overview

Empty Spaces Researcher Says America Never Had That Many Indians


1995, Reuters News Service, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


An archaeologist who has spent 13 years estimating North America's pre-Columbian population said Thursday he believes it was fewer than 2 million people rather than the 18 million some have cited.

Dean Snow of the State University of New York at Albany studied the remnants of dozens of Mohawk villages dating from 1400 to the start of the American revolution in 1776.

Snow's conclusions, particularly about the scope and timing of epidemics that occurred when American Indians contracted diseases brought by Europeans, were reported today in the journal Science.

The epidemics of scarlet fever, plague, whooping cough and smallpox occurred only when French, English and Dutch settlers began bringing children - and childhood diseases - to the New World, he said.

That means the fatal epidemics among the native population occurred about 150 to 200 years later than scholars had believed, Snow said in a telephone interview.

And, he said, the epidemics could not have killed 18 million native people, as some scholars have estimated, because the entire North American continent probably had less than 2 million inhabitants when Columbus arrived in 1492.

Snow said other scholars have found evidence leading to the similar conclusions, and those archaeologists who have estimated the population in the 18 million range "haven't demonstrated that the sites exist to house that many people. …

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