Twelve essays that trace the development of Near Eastern archeology from its catch-as-catch-can beginnings in the late 18th century to its computerized present--a concise, informative introduction to the field. With its detailed descriptions of Chaldean, Egyptian, Palestinian, Babylonian and Minoan civilizations and its portraits of the scholars and scoundrels who unearthed the artifacts of these civilizations from Mycene to Persepolis, from Halicarnassus to Akhetaten, this is a worthwhile survey. As Winstone points out. legends and epic narratives played a large part in stimulating these early ""pick-and-shove!"" investigators. Heinrich Schliemann was obsessed by the idea of proving the accuracy of Homer's Iliad. Unfortunately, his work at Troy and Mycene was almost as destructive as revelatory. In addition, many of his discoveries, such as the golden ""Treasures of Priam,"" remain cloaked in controversy. The British Sir Arthur Evans was equally fascinated by the legend of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur. But his re-creation of the palace at Knossos was more an expression of its discoverer's highly romantic personal taste than a historically accurate reconstruction. In Egypt's Valley of the Kings, Howard Carter stunned the world with his discovery of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen's treasure-filled tomb in 1923. Winstone has been wise to focus his attention on these and other colorful personalities in telling his story; their idiosyncracies and intuitions, insights and inadequacies add human scale to the narrative amid the more technical discussions of dynastic, artistic and linguistic complexities. Though it fails to reveal much that is new and would benefit from a livelier style, this is. nonetheless, a useful guide for those seeking an overview of two centuries of archeological exploration. More than 100 illustrations, 17 in excellent color, plus maps.