The Phaistos Disk

(An Undeciphered Code)

The Phaistos disk was discovered in 1908 in southern Crete, and apparently dates from about 1700 B.C. It is a two-sided, circular clay tablet, imprinted on both sides, with symbols in a spiral pattern. These symbols were impressed using a set of stamps, rather than being hand-engraved. This suggests a facility for large-scale production of printed material; however, no other samples of the script have ever been found, so the material available for decipherment is very limited. The disk contains a total of 242 distinct symbols, broken into 61 groups. Many of the symbols are pictures of clearly recognizable objects; however attempting to interpret these literally does not lead to any obvious decipherment of the disk. Speculation has thus arisen that the pictograms are somehow being used phonetically, perhaps in a manner similar to Egyption hieroglyphics. Another speculation is that the disk is an artifact having some ceremonial religious function, and does not represent a sample of a developed writing system. This would account for the lack of other exemplars. On the other hand, the use of stamps and implied mass-production capability suggests that other examples may yet be discovered.

The images above were taken from a replica of the disk in the possesion of the author of this page, and colors and microtextures appearing on the tablet do not necessarily reflect properties of the original.