The Phaistos Disc

Is the Phaistos Disc an Homage to Motherhood?

Is the Phaistos Disc an homage to motherhood?  Academia is undecided.

Discovered in 1908 in the Minoan Palace-site dedicated to Phaistos – a Minoan deity – by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier, the Phaistos disc has been an enigma for more than 100 years.  Oft written about, rarely understood, never truly deciphered, the Phaistos disc is a remnant of a civilisation long dead, a civilisation connected most intimately to classical Greece, and possibly even…Atlantis.

There are those who believe, with some credibility, that the great Atlantean society was in fact the Minoan peoples situated on the volcanic islands of Santorini and Crete.  Some researchers claim that the massive volcanic eruption centered in Santorini’s Thera, was the very same cataclysmic event described in Plato’s Criteas and Timeas, the event which caused the demise of the so-called island of Atlantis.  Details are scant, of course, since all of the modern conjecture about Atlantis is based on best guesses and ancient legends, but of the many Atlantis theories, the Minoan eruption theory is among the more believable.

Of course, all of that is moot, as it pertains to the Phaistos Disc, if we cannot understand what it says, and thus far we cannot.

The Phaistos Disc, much like other linguistic puzzles – such as the Voynich Manuscript – has been the focus of much study and debate, and until recently all theories about its content were on relatively equal footing.  To date there have been no less than 23 decipherment attempts, all of which claimed some measure of success.  Both linguistic and symbolic interpretations have been put forward, but none has offered any sign of a congruent, predictable language or system of communication…until now.

On October 20 of this year, Associate Director and Erasmus Coordinator of the Technological Education Institute of Crete, Gareth Owens, presented his own findings and theory about the meaning of the cryptic symbols imprinted on either side of the disc.  Owens claims to have deciphered most of the symbols and describes it as “the first Minoan CD-ROM featuring a prayer to a mother”.  He identifies several words emerging from the symbols, most pertaining to motherhood, and believes that it is an homage to a Minoan deity connected to fertility, pregnancy, and birth.

Owens’ confidence in his interpretation, which was a joint effort in conjunction with linguist and Professor of Phonetics at Oxford, Dr. John Coleman, lead him to claim that the Phaistos Disc can now be used as a Rosetta Stone for the ancient Minoan language.

The Phaistos Disc

Though, as with any ancient artifact of this nature, his theory isn’t accepted by all.  Researcher and expert on symbolism and ancient language traditions, and author of the book The Decipherment of the Phaistos Disc, Dilip Rajeev disagrees with Owens, calling his interpretation “implausible”.

The basis for this objection is in the assertion that the disc is not an alphabetic text, as Owen’s suggests, but is instead decipherable as a body of symbolic text, similar to traditional Chinese kanji.  The difference, according to Rajeev, is that symbolic characters depend on association with other characters to derive meaning.  For instance, when one symbol appears on its own, it can have a particular meaning, but when paired with other symbols that meaning changes, sometimes drastically.  In alphabetical texts, such associations are much less important.

When viewed this way, Owens’ interpretation of the disc is certainly called into question.  Though we’ve all heard these claims and counter claims before.  You’ll recall that the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript has been thought solved several times too, though in each case, as with Phaistos Disc, the claims are inevitably marred by competing theories and minor details in disagreement with each other.  It may be that these artefacts are truly indecipherable, after all, they’ve held their secrets this long.  No doubt though, researchers will continue to chip away at the meaning behind the symbols, and may, eventually, provide us with definitive explanations for these mysteries.

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  1. disc
    This is interesting to me for an odd reason. About a year ago I found a round metallic charm on the beach that had a single red ribbon attached to it. It had strange markings all around it and the year 2007 so I thought it was a medal given out for the many boat races that happen on that particular beach. It looks kind of like the side of the disc on the right:


  2. The Disc
    I’ve read a fair mount about this disc. To my ind, the key is the individual blocks. if you will ote, there are a number of blocks, or segments, delineated by lines, with a few symbols within each section. What this says to me is that within each segment is a phrase. Not a word, per se, but a phrase, perhaps even a sentence. The segment markers act as we would use periods.

    The questions then is whether the prayer/whatever starts in the middle and works outward, or in the outside working inward.

    Being that this was a Minoan piece, I’d also be even money that it’s a variant, symbol-wise, of either Linear-A or Linear-B, and related to the Mycenean/early Greek language.

    I wish I had the time and resources to devote to this, because it intrigues me greatly. I concur with it likely being some sort of prayer or incantation wheel.

    Anyway, that’s my late-night ramble and 2-cent’s worth on the subject.

    I’d be right surprised that with further excavation, similar items aren’t found.

  3. A Worthy Grail Puzzle
    Definitely looks Minoan/Cretan with the labyrinthine design, and the goddess-centric Atlantean culture with the spiral (“concentric circle”) pattern. It comes across as fairly crude in terms of a narrative approach to writing, but maybe there’s more sophistication than meets the eye. Maybe, you are supposed to decode/traverse the symbols kind of like the game of Chutes and Ladders in order to reach the center and “kill the Minotaur” (haha).

    The modern mariner’s medal LastLoop retrieved from the beach does bear an uncanny resemblance to it. Wow, that’s bizarre!

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