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Cochineal Red [Paperback]

Hugh Thomson
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

June 1 2007
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. 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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'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 engrossing, impassioned account whereby the entire country becomes a plot full of high drama and extraordinary 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) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

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.

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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history Dec 17 2010
Thomson writes of his travels, mostly in northern Peru, visiting ancient archeological sites. He captures the history and timelines very well, but tends to jump from one site to another rather erratically. There is no thread running through this book that captures the point - is this just a travelogue, or is he trying to establish a baseline history of early Peruvian peoples? Not useful for the first time Peruvian traveller - but still an interesting read if you like the early history and are thinking of making a trip to some of the less travelled and more remote sites.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The real deal March 21 2013
By G. Peters - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Have read most of Thompson's books and loved them all. His books about ancient Peru are written that not only tell a good story, but fills in the gaps that most information about Peru leave out. The best books about this subject since VonHagen and I have read a lot on this subject. Warning, anyone who reads these will surely want to travel to Peru and see the sites he described. It is my pleasure to say I have done so a couple of times, but need to do so again. Most people have no idea how extensive the civilization was and how long before the Incas. Recommend his books to those who are interested in archeaology and South American civilizations.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read June 28 2012
By Katie Pickard Fawcett - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hugh Thomson strikes a great balance in this book with relating current events, personal experience, and historical information. It's very well organized in chapters related to specific areas of the country and each chapter offers an in-depth look at Caral, for example, or the Nazca Lines, or the Sacred Valley. The literary quality makes it wonderful reading, but it's also an excellent companion book for anyone thinking about traveling to Peru, as well as for those who prefer being armchair travelers.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars title is very misleading -disappointing purchase Sept. 13 2013
By Vince DellaSperanza - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Cochineal is a natural dye of historical significance. the book isn't even about the dye (which was my motivation for purchasing it) but rather chronicles descriptions of archeological finds in the Peruvian jungle. I was specifically interested in the dye and how it might have impacted ancient Peruvian society. the misleading title is sure to lead to disappointment if you share my interest in this dye.
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