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The Past From Above

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The Past From Above
Aerial Photographs of Archaeological Sites. Photographs by Georg Gerster. Edited by Charlotte Trümpler. (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum: 2005. Pg. 415. 516 color and 12 b/w illustrations.) ISBN: 0-89236-817-9.

Reviewed by Simon Bonim - July 1, 2005

The Past From Above - Aerial Photographs of Archaeological Sites is a gorgeous, coffee-table sized book that contains more than 525 incredible aerial photographs of archaeological sites around the world. Most of these photographs are full page, color spreads, and all of the photographs are the work of Georg Gerster. The text, which was written by a variety of scholars, was edited by Charlotte Trumpler, and each photograph is annotated with short, informative descriptions that offer fascinating tidbits of information about each site.

The photographs in this collection are organized into thematic chapters, covering such topics as culture, villages, battlefields, cemeteries, sacred sites, palaces, and a telling section on sites that have been looted. Each chapter begins with the full-color layouts, followed by the commentary on each photograph. These commentaries are accompanied by thumbnail images of the site, making it easy to match the commentary with the larger image and as a reminder of what site you are reading about. The commentaries are also numbered, to match the full sized photograph, for easy reference. Included is an introductory essay by Trumpler on the role of aerial photography in Archaeology, and one by Gerster on his work as an aerial photographer. A glossary of terms rounds out this exceptional book.

The photographs in this collection run the gamut from sites in Iceland and Mali to Scotland and Syria. Even if you have visited these sites in person, you will find that these photographs provide a unique perspective of the various sites that you cannot get elsewhere unless you were to rent a helicopter and fly over the site for a personal, aerial view. For those who have not yet had the chance to visit these sites, or who would rather keep their feet on the ground, these photographs will provide an unforgettable aerial survey of some the most fascinating archaeological sites in the world. The Past From Above is an ideal book for both arm-chair archaeologist and those working in the field.

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