This outsized volume contains some extraordinary aerial photographs of various archeological sites: the Nazca lines in Peru; Mesoamerican temple complexes; megaliths in England and Brittany; pueblos and effigy mounds in the United States. The aerial viewpoint clarifies the relationships among the elements at each site, and gives the reader a sense of their often staggering scale. (Some of the Nazca figures are nearly 3,000 feet long.)
The brief essays at the beginning of each chapter vary greatly in quality. The most interesting of them is Maria Reche’s thoughtful explanation of how the giant Nazca figures were made--and how people interpret them according to their own interests. She dismisses the sensationalist theory that the figures were intended to delineate a landing field for extraterrestrial visitors: The friable, rocky soil couldn’t support a space ship--a fact that seems to have escaped the people who propound this notion in supermarket tabloids.