Peru wears its ancient cultures wrapped around in layers, like one of the mummified bodies so well preserved by the nitrates of its deserts. After his acclaimed book on the Incas, The White Rock, Hugh Thomson unwraps those layers to show how civilisation emerged so early and so spectacularly in this toughest and most arid of terrains. Many of the extraordinary cultures of Ancient Peru, from the lines of Nasca to the temple-cult of Chavin, buried in the mountains, and the great pyramids of the coast, have only started to give up their secrets and antiquity in just the last few years. As one archaeologist put it: 'Imagine if all the discoveries of Ancient Egypt had been made so recently - the finding of Tutankhamen's tomb, of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, of Abu Simbel - and you have some idea of the great excitement at what has been happening in Peru.' Hugh Thomson has been at the forefront of some of these discoveries himself, having made headlines with his work near Machu Picchu. Now he takes the reader on a journey back from the world of the Incas to the first dawn of Andean civilisation, to give an immensely personal and accessible guide to the wonders that have been revealed.
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Hugh Thomson read English at Cambridge University and worked briefly as a lecturer at Bristol University before becoming a film-maker. He has directed many feature-length documentaries for the BBC, including the award-winning Dancing in the Street - a Rock and Roll History. His films for television include the BBC's Great Journeys series about Cortez's invasion of Mexico and a series on India presented by William Dalrymple.Review:
'Thomson's story is an epic one - in an increasingly homogenous world, he has found, and describes to perfection, a mythical land.' PUBLISHING NEWS (10.3.06) 'This masterly book represents the compression of 25 years of Thomson's travels and explorations in Peru, through five millennia of history...Thomson captures the enormous excitement currently felt in Peru. He writes enthrallingly about the host of recent major archaeological discoveries and the secrets they have revealed...The result is a fascinating, intelligently told tale, full of intriguing revelations, that penetrates deeper into the Andean past than previously attempted.' TRAVELLER MAGAZINE (June 2006) 'Thomson impressively interweaves 25 years of personal exploration and discovery with the rise and fall of each of the pre-Inca civilisations, searching out and studying their enduring monuments to reveal their beliefs, ways of living and effect on the cultures that followed...an engrossing, impassioned account whereby the entire country becomes a plot full of high drama and extraordinary characters...travel writing in the finest tradition.' -- Alex Stewart WANDERLUST (August/September) 'History, archaeological puzzle-solving, ethnography and traveller's tales are combined in this account of Hugh Thomson's extensive travels through the principal sites of Ancient Peru, leading the reader on a dizzying tour through five turbulent millennia. The cumulative effect is enthralling.' -- Sara Wheeler TIMES (22.7.06) 'From lake-island trek to frantic festival, from thumbnail sketches of scholars, to gossip and insights into...archaeologists and astronomers, Thomson guides us through his pleasures.' -- Tom Adair SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY (23.7.06) 'Cochineal Red...artfully blends technical archaeological knowledge with a readable and exciting account of his own Peruvian odyssey, from the search for lost ruins to life in modern Peru and even Lima's politics...[Thomson exercises] a deft touch and an evocative style.' -- Gary Ziegler GEOGRAPHICAL (1.8.06) 'First and most importantly, Hugh Thomson is a good thing. It takes a rare combination of scholarly focus and Boy's Own derring-do to write books about adventuring in Peru (this is his third) which consistently rise above the level of backpackers' companions, and convey not only Thomson's great knowledge of the ancient civilisations of the Andes, but also the thrill of the chase for such knowledge.' -- Matthew Parris THE SPECTATOR (5.8.06) 'Thomson, who has written about ancient Peru before, in The White Rock, steps through this window of innocence, assembling a band of adventurers and oddballs to explore the signature sites of succeeding civilisations from the Caral (3000BC) to the Inca of the 15th century...Thomson's evocation and speculation on the drug-taking ceremonies, the disorientating architecture and the eroticised rituals of human sacrifice and thrilling and disturbing.' -- Nigel Richardson TELEGRAPH (26.8.06) 'What makes Cochineal Red such a worthwhile book is that it is written by someone who is both an explorer and a scholar. We may begin with Thomson hacking through jungle paths, but he has read widely and talked to all the specialists. The result is an enjoyable, erudite and fascinating insight into cultures that, as they become temporally more distant, grow in importance in shaping our understanding of civilisation.' -- Toby Green INDEPENDENT (15.9.06) 'Communicates all the excitement of participating in the discovery of a hidden world.' -- J.H.Elliott author of Empires of the Atlantic World. 'fascinating story, not only of following up leads left by Bingham at Llactapata, but of exploring other sites and wonders in Peru.' -- John Ure TLS (15.12.06)
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