Thursday, July 20, 2006

Digging into foreign cultures by studying their archaeology
What could be more thrilling than discovering an ancient ruin, a hidden city or even a lost tribe -- the buried treasure of humankind itself?

In "From Stonehenge to Samarkand: An Anthology of Archaeological Travel Writing" (Oxford University Press; $35; 291 pages), editor and author Brian Fagan makes his own Grand Tour of archaeological adventurers. His subjects range from the antiquarian collectors of the 16th century through the 19th century excavators of Middle Eastern, Mayan and American Indian sites, from renowned tourists such as Thomas Cook and Mark Twain to modern observers such as Paul Theroux and Karin Muller, traveling at a time when places such as Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu are wrapped in a suffocating embrace.