In an Age of Specialization it's becoming increasingly chic to do the unexpected: Arthur Schlesinger reviews movies, Norman Mailer reports on the Liston-Patterson fight, Truman Capote covers a murder case. Now columnist Joseph Alsop, long-time Washington pundit, goes on a journey to Pylos and Crete in an attempt to fill in the gaps about our knowledge of Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations and the catastrophe that catapulted them to dust. Since archaeology was once an amateur's sport -- at least Schliemann, Evans and Ventris all came to it without certificates and degrees- Alsop's free-wheeling investigations are not totally out of place; further, by his own admission, he's been a bug on the subject since his salad days and has ""read just about everything concerning Crete and early Greece"" that's been published in either English or French. What he has to relate scholars may dispute, if for no other reason than that Alsop disputes with them, but the general reader should succumb to the straightforward, unsugared style, the imaginative recreations of Nestor's Palace and the mercantile magnificence of Knossos, the theories advanced (such as that Crete had been conquered early in the game by the Myconaeans, thus explaining the similar artifacts found on the mainland and the island), the tete-a-tetes with Alsop's friend and fellow-traveler, the archaeologist C.W. Blegen; above all, the sheer enthusiasm and excitement behind the account. The antiquarians may never be the same again.