The Unsolved Mystery of the Phaistos Disk
In 1908, a most mysterious object was discovered in the palace complex of Phaistos on the island of Crete. The object was a small disk of fired clay, about 6 inch in diameter, and held symbols of unknown meaning in a spiral formation. Both sides of the mysterious Disk displayed stamped images grouped within defined lines.
The Phaistos Disk was discovered by Italian archaeologist, Luigi Pernier, and was unearthed from a temple depository on the basement level in a building northeast of the main Palace. It was found with a few other items; ashes, burnt bones of cattle, and a nearby tablet consisting of the unsolved Linear A script. These items suggest a placement and burial of the Disk as having been part of a sacred ritual to possibly ward off evil or protection of harm from coming to the developed area. From this idea, the symbolic writing on the Phaistos Disk is believed to hold a magical charm of sorts to some researchers. The interring of objects for such belief was a practice known in the time, and so the theory is definitely sound.
However, without understanding what the Disk does definitely ‘read’ or knowing the exact origin of the Disk, everything about it, even its purpose, remains still in question. One of the huge anomalies to the dated 1700 BC object, is the ‘stamping’ of symbols into soft clay, later heated, on the Disk. This is a method of writing (movable type) which wasn’t realized until a much later time. The Phaistos Disk’s advanced design stands alone at this stage of civilization.
For this reason, many scholars wonder about its authenticity. They question; if stamps were used to ‘print’, suggesting the stamps could be used more than once, then why hasn’t multiple other examples of the Disk’s symbols been found on other artifacts? Plus, why haven’t any of the ‘stamps’ themselves been found, or the advanced method of printing used to create the Disk further utilized by others in the time?
These questions continue to be asked, and although some scholars believe the Phaistos Disk could be a hoax because of those bafflements, along with circumstances surrounding the find which did allow opportunities for placing a forged object, historical evidence actually suggests otherwise.
One of the most convincing factors to conclude the Phaistos Disk is indeed real is the discovery of a few other mysterious objects which are without question of authenticity. These objects are the Arkalochori Axe, the Ring of Mavro Spilaio, and a Sealing.
The Arkalochori Axe has an inscription on it of 15 symbols and was found in 1934 in a cave on Crete. It shares a few similar symbols to that on the Phaistos Disk. The Mavro Spilaio gold ring displays symbols written in spiral form like that of the Disk. And the Sealing, found in Phaistos 45 years later, includes a symbol matching one on the Disk. The only one known. These ancient artifacts are deemed genuine and remain almost just as mysterious, but their findings support the Disk’s validity.
So then the mystery moves to ‘What might the Disk say or represent?’ There were 241 impressions made into the clay faces of the Disk and are made from 45 individual symbols. These symbols seem to create ‘words’ by differing amounts of symbols being separated by lines etched on the Disk. The longest string or group of symbols being 7 in a row.
One side consists of 30 groupings of symbols and the other side contains 31.
Although the images are of common items and identifiable, how they might be used in order to ‘read’ is another matter, and a mystery. Because there are so few symbols, and examples of them discovered, the meaning upon the Phaistos Disk might never be deciphered until more artifacts containing like symbols are found.
For over a century, since its discovery, the Phaistos Disk has mystified researchers. While many theories and decipherments are put forth, none are conclusive or agreed upon.
It seems the Phaistos Disk is one object which will keep its secrets. At least for now.
Best of luck with all that you seek! Treasure the Adventure!
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