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Lost Worlds and Ancient Places

Author John Cech
Air Date 7/25/2005

Lost Worlds and Ancient Places Transcript

The summer is the perfect time for kids to go exploring, in search of far away places and lost worlds. And there are many recent books that will help to whet their appetites for ancient lands, like Ted Lewin’s Lost City, The Discovery of Machu Picchu. Combining a spare text with large, lush water color pictures, Lewin tells the story of the expedition that Hiram Bingham led to Peru in 1911 in search of a fabled lost city of the Incas, Vilcapampa. Instead, after months of searching, he found, almost by accident, another lost city, Machu Picchu, among the mountain peaks of the Andes. Lewin’s picture book will give the young reader just a taste of this remarkable discovery and of the culture that produced this city, which is still shrouded in mystery, like mountain mist. If the fascination with archaeology sets in, Lewin’s book may well be just the first stop on a long journey that takes a child eventually back to Bingham’s own books, which are still in print, and which contain the actual photograph that Bingham took of the Quechua (KECH-wah) boy who led him up the mountain.

Speaking of mysteries, there is perhaps no greater question in the archaeology of the Americas than the disappearance of the civilization of the Maya of present day Yucatan, in Mexico, just a short plane ride from Florida. One of the most intriguing puzzles concerning the Maya has been that of trying to decipher their elaborate hieroglyphs. That’s the subject of Laurie Coulter’s Secrets in Stone, All About Maya Hieroglyphs. Well, maybe it’s not “all about,” but we can certainly begin to gain a sense of the complexity of these glyphs, and the code they represented that wouldn’t begin to be broken until the 1970s. This book touches on the high points of the recent archaeological history of the Maya. It’s packed with detail, and it even includes some embossed glyphs that a young epigrapher could use to send her own Americanized, Mayan messages.

If your young Indiana Joneses get really serious, you can refer them to Richard Panchyk’s Archeology for Kids, Uncovering the Mysteries of Our Past, which explains some of the hard, dusty facts of actually doing archaeology — from the basic way to survey excavations, to analyses of the discoveries from the dig. Panchyk also includes some hands on activities that kids can try, literally in their own back yards. It just may be that by the end of the summer you may find a grid of strings set up back behind the garage, marked at each corner by brand new, hand-made oil lamps that look like they could have come directly from ancient Phonecia.

Posted in Education, Literature