90% of the population of the Americas died after first contact, making it the largest mass death in history with 10% of the global population dying.

European colonization of the Americas killed 10 percent of world population and caused global cooling

While Europe was in the early days of the Renaissance, there were empires in the Americas sustaining more than 60 million people. But the first European contact in 1492 brought diseases to the Americas which devastated the native population, and the resultant collapse of farming in the Americas was so significant that it may have even cooled the global climate.

The number of people living in North, Central and South America when Christopher Columbus arrived is a question that researchers have been trying to answer for decades. Unlike in Europe and China, no records on the size of Indigenous societies in the Americas before 1492 are preserved. To reconstruct population numbers, researchers rely on the first accounts from European eyewitn… Continue Reading (4 minute read)

9 thoughts on “90% of the population of the Americas died after first contact, making it the largest mass death in history with 10% of the global population dying.”

  1. bottleboy8

    Entire civilizations in the Americas were decimated before the Europeans even reached them. The diseases traveled faster than the explorers.

    “Later explorers to the same regions, only a few decades after mound-building settlements had been reported, found the regions largely depopulated, the residents vanished, and the mounds untended. Since little violent conflict with Europeans had occurred in that area during that period, the most plausible explanation is that infectious diseases from the Old World, such as smallpox and influenza, had decimated most of the Native Americans who had comprised the last mound-builder civilization.”


  2. defaultusername001

    This was almost entirely done by disease. [Here’s a good video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEYh5WACqEk) explaining why the Americas got the short end of the stick instead of the Europeans. This is also why there are very possibly legitimate ‘lost cities’ in the Amazon. Their populations were devastated to the point of collapse before the Europeans reached them.

    Another interesting/horrific facet of this is that the Incans believed disease was caused by an actual attack by an unfriendly spirit. After massive portions of their population were already dead from disease, the Spanish showed up talking about their God who is a greater spirit than any other, who will destroy the enemies of the Spanish. The loss of life to disease, the guns, steel, and psychological effect of all of it all let the Spanish conquer so much of the New World with relative ease. Roughly 1/3 of Spanish gold and silver extracted from the New World eventually found its way to Asia to buy spices and textiles, helping to fund and motivate European colonial expansion. It’s hard to imagine how different the world would be if it diseases hadn’t so devastated the Americas.

  3. dalenacio

    The worst part is that this was completely unavoidable. It was an immediate consequence of a European reaching America and it was impossible for anyone to know that this would happen.

  4. weluckyfew

    That’s the concept that always stuck with me – what we think of as the Native American ‘tribes’ encountered by settlers were actually the post-Apocalypse survivors of civilizations.

  5. fvillion

    By its own account, this study is highly speculative. That’s not necessarily to say that it’s wrong.

  6. DarvinAmbercaste

    Sorry climate change denial has made me snap at misquoted statistics. And I hate this miss represented statistic, the 90% quoted fact is just short of a lie. I see this one quoted all the time, but the statistical model from the original the data is estimated data which lack reliable numerator and denominator data. That model estimates 30-90% population loss regionally. The author admits the data is based on heavy estimation and is only a speculative theory.

  7. Merky600

    Pigs. Don’t forget the role of pigs. Pigs let loose in the Americas ran well ahead of explorers. They brought disease as well as ecological ruin.

  8. Gnostic_Mind

    The American Indian most American’s think of is an image built upon late interactions. What isn’t typically realized is that very same image was the apocalypse for them. Their social structures shattered.

    Think the walking dead. Fragments of people banding together just to survive. This type of thing was common during the early years.

  9. Carmen brant

    And now we have bats….

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