National Geographic : 1959 Sep
.TALIAN DEPARTMENTOF ANTIQUITIES (ABOVE), FED. PATELLANI (OPPOSITE ABOVE), AND W. ROBERTMOORE. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STAFF another window in the tube provides light. The tube is lowered through soil, rock, and the roof of the tomb itself, in a hole previously bored by an electric earth drill. By remote control we can then trigger the light and camera, advancing the film after each ex posure. In 12 shots, turning the tube 30 degrees after each, we can photograph the entire interior of the tomb. With our "Eye of Minos," as it has been dubbed, we thus not only can tell if a tomb is empty or hopelessly disintegrated, forestall ing useless excavation, but also can make an exact photographic record of the contents of a sealed chamber before it is opened to the light of modern day. Etruscans Buried History with the Dead The Etruscan tombs have often been called "tombs of gold" for the treasures of jewelry, sculpture, urns, and other objects these shad owy people buried with their dead. Much of what is known about the Etruscans indeed comes from these sepulchers-how they lived, their religion and art, the music, danc ing, and athletic games they enjoyed. Their civilization, we know, flourished along the western shore of Italy from about the 8th century B.C. until it was overwhelmed by the Romans between the 4th century B.C. and the beginning of the Christian Era.* The Etruscans grew strong on trade, min ing, and craftsmanship in iron, bronze, gold, and other metals. Their loose confederation 342 of 12 city-states ruled much of Italy from south of Pompeii to the valley of the Po. They developed a distinctive art of elegance and originality and gave the Romans many rites, ceremonies, and symbols of authority, such as the fasces and the toga. With powerful fleets, the Etruscans domi nated the Tyrrhenian Sea for centuries against the Greeks and Carthaginians. At the same time, they traded extensively with the Greeks, and their artists borrowed from Greek styles. Yet scholars still do not agree on just who the Etruscans were, whether immigrants from Asia Minor or basically a native Italic people. Nor is their language yet fully understood. though individual words and an Etruscan alphabet, linked to the Greek, are known. I am an engineer, not a trained archeolo gist. But for some years now I have been fascinated both by the mysteries of the Etrus cans and by the challenge of using modern geophysical techniques-newer methods of searching for underground ores, oil, or water - to hunt for buried clues to the past. One such technique is th? use of aerial photography, by no means new to archeology. A few years ago, however, I learned of the work that an English archeologist, John Brad ford, was doing in mapping ancient sites in Italy from RAF wartime air photographs. It was astounding to me how much could be learned of what lies beneath the earth's sur face by studying shadings of the soil, relative * In "Ancient Rome Brought to Life," by Rhys Carpenter, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, November, 1946, an Etruscan funeral and festival are depicted on pages 572-5.