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For some time archaeologists have recognized the unique value of aerial photography as a tool in their search for, and in the excavation of, ancient sites. Recently ethnographers too have discovered that aerial photographs can open up for them a whole new area of meaningful investigation, permitting them at last, in a sense, to see the forest instead of the trees. Evon Z. Vogt and nine others discuss the latest technical developments in aerial photography and their multiple applications to anthropological research, both archaeological and ethnographical.
Through examples drawn from a wide variety of times and places, the book illuminates relations that exist between natural and cultural landscapes. Specifically, the first chapters deal with a number of natural environments throughout the world; they identify the changes taking place and then interpret their cultural meaning. The peoples dealt with range from the Olmecs of Mexico and the aborigines of the Arctic, to the Indian and Anglo-American occupants of the Gila River valley of Arizona and the present-day rural populations of the Cauca Valley of Colombia.
Specific investigations involving the Maya Indians of Chiapas, Mexico, and the Ifugao tribes of the Philippines are detailed. The use of aerial photography in each reveals patterns not discernible by other means. Spatial distributions of dwellings, trail networks, and their relationship to the environment are scrutinized for what they may reveal about the culture as a whole.
Of particular value in connection with this new mode of research is the concluding essay in the book, which combines a history of aerial photography in anthropology and a survey of its varied uses with an exhaustive bibliography.