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Book Review: Great Discoveries: Explorations that Changed History by Editors of TIME Magazine

Written by Fantasma el Rey

TIME has once more put together an amazing coffee table book; this one focused on and titled Great Discoveries: Explorations That Changed History. This latest effort doesn’t disappoint because it is fun and fascinating from beginning to end. Great Discoveries is well written and the information is presented in an easy-to-understand fashion that adds to its enjoyment and overall appeal. Packed with beautiful high-definition photos, this 138-page voyage of discovery will take you around the world and into space as you sit in the comfort of your home.

Divided into four major sections (“Exploring The Past,” “Exploring The Earth,” “Exploring Life On Earth,” and “Exploring The Solar System”), each then features various discoveries in that subject. From page one the photos take center stage as they pop with detail and color, bringing their subjects to brilliant life, making it very easy to dream of being right there in the thick of the action. A great map of the world greets us and gives a good look at where on the planet we are headed to in the pages to come.

Turn the page and the exploration begins in “Exploring The Past” as we head to Egypt, Rome, China, the ancient Americas, and all over Europe. In the sands of Egypt our guide is the one and only Zahi Hawass. Watch any really good television program with a focus on ancient Egypt and Hawass will be there. We then head all over the world and through time to Machu Picchu in Peru, over to England and Stonehenge, Mayan temples in Mexico, get a quick look at the Terra Cotta army of China and back to England to look upon the unearthed remains of a theater that showed the fist runs of many a Shakespeare play. This section is dotted with ships, swords, helmets, forts, bog bodies, mummies, masks, and treasure galore.

“Exploring The Earth” opens with a look at natural disasters and asks the question “Can we learn to predict them?” Some sad and interesting shots of volcanoes and tsunamis in action run alongside those of the aftermath of such devastation. From there we travel with Lewis and Clark on their adventures through the wilderness of North America and then race to the frozen poles with Ernest Shackleton, Robert E. Peary, and Roald Amundsen. We also go in search of mineral riches (gold, jewels, oil), the source of the Nile River, and stand on a bluff to view the splendor of Victoria Falls.

“Exploring Life On Earth” takes a closer look at recent fossil finds that may answer some questions and raise others on the subject of evolution and extinct creatures. Beaked dinosaurs get great coverage with photos of fossils, artist conceptions, and interesting information on the finds. We also get a peek at giant extinct snakes, marine predators, and a baby Mammoth frozen for 40,000 years. The highlight in this section is the finding of what many believe to be a “previously unknown species of human.” Small in size and brain capacity, it’s “suggested these unusually small hominids had coexisted for a time with Homo Sapiens.” The text is great and goes into a bit of the controversy surrounding the whole thing as well as giving a quick overview of both arguments for and against the theory of this find being human. It’s also found that this species had long feet and thus they became nicknamed “hobbits.” Not from the shire they come but an Indonesian island cave.

The last section “Exploring The Solar System” does just that as we gaze skyward and ponder the old question of “what do the planets really look like?” The pictures here are truly amazing as we explore with real color the landscape of Mars and the machines that brought us the images. The photos give us a feel for the red planet’s arid terrain while the text discuses the possibilities of water frozen on its caps or running underground. More great photos dominate these last pages with comets, stars, moons, planet rings, the sun, and the northern lights.

Great Discoveries: Explorations That Changed History is a fascinating look at our planet’s history and beyond it. The pages are filled with information that everyone can enjoy, share, and access either by glancing at the photos, reading aloud, or in silently study. This book is a great addition to any library. Even if you own similar works, this one is a must for its up-to-date information and bright, lively photos. I’m pleased to have it added to my collection.

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