A brief, lavishly illustrated survey of the development of Olmec, Zapotec, Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec cities in pre-Columbian Meso-America. Sabtoff traces the history of the cities back 3,000 years to San Lorenzo and its Olmec founders, and up to the Spanish conquest of Aztec Tenochtitlan in the early 16th century. Along the way, he discusses urban planning, religious beliefs and practices, industry and trade, and sports and art. In an apparent effort to humanize his research, the author creates a series of vignettes that re-create the daily lives of such city-dwellers as an astronomer, a ballplayer, a farmer's wife. Because the biographies are necessarily brief and somewhat similar in their general outlines, however, they fail to be especially involving. Sabloff also discusses the theorists who claim Meso-American civilization can be traced back to Egyptian or Oriental roots, and entertainingly pooh-poohs Erich von Daniken's premise that it was extraterrestrials who were responsible for the monumental structures that characterize these pre-Columbian civilizations. A clear if somewhat sketchy summary that will appeal to readers in search of a easily manageable overview of this hemisphere's cultural roots.