Gift ideas -- arts, literature, books for children; Vanished civilization; Between Continents/ Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica, by Suzanne Abel-Fidor et al. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc./The Detroit Institute of Arts. 240 pp. $35.

Gold diggers have dug for centuries in Costa Rica, destroying the archaeological record as they amass their hoards. However, in recent years the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica has made controlled excavations in various places, trying to establish the cultural framework out of which treasures emerge from the past. This book, published to accompany an exhibition touring the United States for two years, presents the museum's findings.

The objects are eye-openers. The concept of a high civilization, previously unknown in Central America, begins to evolve with the ability to compare objects scientifically as to place and time of origin. The essays are difficult to read, but they convey the excitement of a true mystery story.

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