Michael Coe is one of the best of the young American archaeologists now working in Mexico and without doubt the best writer among them. It was only natural, therefore, that the American Heritage editors, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, should call upon him to write on the Olmec civilization.

Coe traces not only the history of the Olmecs, but also the history of Olmec studies. There are digressions, and much of the book deals with other areas and other peoples. The logic of including a reproduction of the Aztec calendar stone, for example, escaped me, though I must admit that it is attractively reproduced. All of the art work—maps, photographs, line drawings, charts, etc.—is up to the high standard maintained in American Heritage.

The prose does not read like echt Coe, however, and I suspect that the editors touched it up considerably to fit their notions of what the general public likes to read or can read. Still it is a beautiful work, and if history writing must be popularized, it could not have been under more happy circumstances.