Written with a view to entertain, this book is neither technical nor theoretically abstruse. Comparing the growth, development and decline of such varied cultures as those of Sumeria, Assyria, the Hittite Empire, the Indus Valley, Ceylon and America, the author notes their similarities. In each case the society, its economic and religious institutions, was based on agriculture, organized by a strong centralized power. This power was often synonymous with the priesthood, an educated, authoritative body. The ""level"" of religion, ventures Mr. Cottrell, has no connection with the level of civilization; barbarism is not peculiar to pagans. In a highly readable and interesting manner the ambitions and explorations of archeologists from the 1840's on up are recounted along with recapitulations of ancient historical records -- Pliny, Strabo and others. Botto, Layard, Koldeway, Knox, Winckler, Hiram Bingham are some who participated in the unearthing of lost cities -- Pompeii, Herculaneum, Chichen Itza, Palmyra, Nineveh. The contents overlap in large part Bermann and George Schreiber's Vanished Cities (to be reported p.408), but the style here is much more lively without sacrifice of the information.