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The Phaistos Disc

Randy H. Sooknanan

ASAG Journal

August 10, 2020

 —Dated to around 1700-1600 BC, the exact date of the disc is uncertain, but it probably dates from the MM IIB period (17th century BC). This enigmatic fired-clay disc was discovered on the 3rd of July in 1908 at the ruins of the First Minoan Palace of Phaistos Phaistos on the Greek island of Crete. Made of clay,  it is 16.5cm in diameter, 2.1cm thick, and its two faces bear 45 different pictographic signs – a total of 241 symbols – spiraling from the edge to the center within incised bands.

The Phaistos Disc (Fig 1) is a fired clay disk of ancient Minoan origin, measuring about 16 cm or 6.3 inches in diameter and is impressed on both sides with 242 symbols set in a spiral arrangement.

Scholars have long been puzzled for over a century since its discovery by the strange pictograms on this potentially 4,000-year-old artefact from the Minoan civilization. As yet, this unique archaeological find remains an undecipherable enigma.

With mysterious symbols on both sides (Fig 1-2), archaeologists believe that the Phaistos Disc depicts a Bronze Age writing system, one of the oldest in Europe. Furthermore, evidence that these symbols were stamped into the clay implies a highly developed writing system that was frequently used (Fig 4).

Some archaeologists say the disc is a religious syllabic inscription to be read in epigraphic continuity and is related to parallel texts that are associated with holy sites and votive offerings, for example, wishes and prayers. Others contest that they are a magical inscription, a piece of ancient music or the world's oldest example of punctuation. Some scholars even believe that the markings on the Phaistos Disc, one of archaeology's most famous unsolved mysteries, mean nothing at all, because the disc may just be a hoax.

Material: Clay
Created: 2nd millennium BC
Discovered by: Luigi Pernier
on July 3, 1908 in Phaistos, Crete
Location: Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Greece


The Mysterious Phaistos Disc

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