Visitors to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan can see for the first time the excavations of the Moche tombs of Sipan, Peru. The Moche were a pre-Inca civilization that dominated northern Peru from A.D. 100 to 800. Some of the artifacts, which include glittering gold scepters, headdresses and jewelry, had been on the black market for years, plundered by looters.
A raid of suspected looters' homes by Peruvian authorities led to scientific excavation near the village of Sipan beginning in 1987. Within two years, scientists had uncovered and opened three intact tombs brimming with gold artifacts, something Geraldo Rivera certainly couldn't do with Al Capone's vault.
The artifacts are now part of the exhibition and introduce visitors to the art and ceremony of the Moche people. The objects are juxtaposed with photographs from the site and with drawings showing how they were used or worn. The exhibit also showcases Moche tapestries, a reproduction of burial tombs and a video of the excavation project.
Admission to the exhibit is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children, and includes an audio tour that is conducted in English and Spanish. The museum, located at Central Park West at 79th Street, is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday evenings until 8:45 p.m. Call (212) 769-5100 for information. Consumer Reports "road-tested" six popular U.S. road atlases recently and rated them, giving the top honors to Rand McNally. The others, in descending order, were atlases published by: the American Automobile Association, Mobil, Gousha, American Map Corp. and Hammond. Although most atlases are revised yearly, the report said newer editions are often sold side-by-side with older ones. Also, all the atlases contained errors -- so, dads, the next time you get the family lost, just blame it on the map.
The ranking parks
Summer in the city? Getting away from it all can be as simple as a walk to the nearest park. Offerings at the top parks range from a zoo, specialty museums (model railroads, outer space, fine arts, history and automobiles) and bougainvillea gardens in Balboa Park, San Diego, to golf courses, jogging and bike trails in Rock Creek Park in Washington.
Weissmann Travel Reports has named its top 10 city parks:
Balboa Park; Golden Gate Park, San Francisco; Parque Nacional Eduardo Ruiz, Uruapan, Mexico; Central Park, New York City; Oglebay Park, Wheeling, W.Va.; Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.; Belle Isle, Detroit, Mich.; Boston Commons/Public Garden, Boston; Fairmont Park, Philadelphia, which tied with Forest Park in St. Louis and with Rock Creek Park.
New York's only museum that's also an aircraft carrier, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum moored at 46th Street and the Hudson River, is growing, as it were. As of Sept. 1, a retired helicopter carrier, the Guadalcanal, will join the Intrepid's fleet, which now includes a submarine, a destroyer, a destroyer escort, a Coast Guard lightship and a research vessel. The Guadalcanal also will be used as a helicopter landing pad. Yeah, it sure beats pony rides. For information on hours and admission, call the museum at (212) 245-0072.
If you're planning a late summer trip through Europe via the rails, be sure to pick up the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable, Summer '94 Edition. It's an indispensable volume that you'll need unless you like watching your train pull away instead of being on it. The arrival and departure times and track information are tack sharp, which you'll need, because those European engineers don't wait for hapless American tourists. The book is $24.95 and available at bookstores or by calling (800) 367-7984.