When I visit large archaeological parks, I must admit even I (total archaeology geek) sometimes get what I think of as "temple blindness". It's hot, there is a lot to see, my feet hurt, and pretty soon in my mind all the buildings run into one another into one big pile of rocks.
That's why when a really great tour book shows up in the press, I'm grateful. Just such a tour book is the fourth edition of Johan Reinhard's book from the Cotsen Institute called Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center.
The book has lots of engaging prose detailing the history and current archaeological understanding of Machu Picchu and the Inca empire who built it. Folktales, history, legends, architecture, agriculture and astronomy of the Inca are profiled, and side trips explore nearby sites like Ollantaytambo and Cuzco, and, for those brave enough to attempt it, pieces of the Inka Trail.
The size of the book is small and compact, perfect for sticking into your back pack. The cover is full color and plastic-coated to be safe from liquid spills and wear and tear from riding alongside your trowel (Although--maybe people don't travel with trowels these days). It's one of those book covers with a spare flap on both the front and back to mark your place, always a good plus for hiking.
The photographs are excellent and detailed--to be frank, I don't think you can take many bad pictures of Machu Picchu, but these are exceptional. Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center is worth getting even if you can't make it to Machu Picchu this year. Images of the incredibly fine Inca architecture--built so well they're still resistant to earthquakes and El NiÃ±o weather five hundred years later or better--never fail to amaze me. Exploring Machu Picchu
So, if you're planning an expedition to Peru to take a look at Inca sites (and of course if you are you wouldn't miss Machu Picchu), Reinhard's book would be a terrific companion, keeping you on target to understand the ruins and learn something about the Inca culture as well.
And if you're not planning such an expedition, Reinhard's book will convince you that you ought to put it on your wish list. --"A Smartly Bound Guide to the Inca Palace" About.com, 2008 (by K. Kris Hirst)
From the Inside Flap
Machu Picchu, recently voted one of the New Wonders of the World, is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, yet it remains a mystery. Even the most basic questions are still unanswered: What was its meaning and why was it built in such a difficult location? Renowned explorer Johan Reinhard attempts to answer such elusive questions from the perspectives of sacred landscape and archaeoastronomy.