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The Mystery of the Phaistos Disk

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The Mystery of the Phaistos Disk

There are many mysteries and mysteries associated with world archaeology. And not always these mysteries lie on the surface and are as huge as the Egyptian pyramids. Sometimes they can easily fit in; I am in the hands of man, but many centuries and millennia are hidden in the ground. Until the archaeologists bring them to light.

The Mystery of the Phaistos Disk

Another working day on July 3, 1908, of an Italian expedition digging up the ruins of the royal palace in Festus, on the island of Crete, was coming to an end when the archaeologist L. Pernier, who was engaged in clearing one of the auxiliary rooms of the palace, discovered a small disk of well-baked clay.

The surface of the object removed from the ground on both sides was covered with previously unknown letters. The ribbon of calligraphically executed pictorial signs was twisted into two tight spirals. Inside the inscriptions on both sides stood a group of characters enclosed in a rectangular field of the cell.

It was obvious that the ancient calligrapher-printer used a technique that anticipated book printing. Each sign was stamped with a specially cut miniature signet. The set of stamps was undoubtedly made in advance and was hardly intended to reproduce a single small text.

The Mystery of the Phaistos Disk

According to archaeological data, the Phaistos disk should have been dated to about 1600 BC — the period of the formation of the Cretan-Minoan civilization. For a long time, the question of the place of manufacture of the ceramic disk remained open — whether it was made on the island of Crete itself or whether someone brought it here. But during the excavations in the thirties of the last century, a cave sanctuary in Arkochora (Central Crete) was found a cult copper axe with an engraved inscription, on which there were signs from the Phaistos disk.

In addition, as shown by the study of other archaeological finds, Cretan masters of ceramics long before the manufacture of the Phaistos disk were aware of the technique of applying images stamped with specially made matrices to the surface of a clay object before firing it.

Phaistos disk

The shortness of the Phaistos disk—it contains 45 types of different signs, a total of 241 characters-does not allow us to draw far-reaching conclusions based on its statistical analysis.

However, it is still possible to find out in principle what this writing system was. The number of characters on the disk is too large for the alphabet, but at the same time too small for hieroglyphic writing, that is, word-syllabic, where the characters are numbered in the hundreds. Therefore, the writing of the Phaistos disc was defined by scientists as syllabic.


Note that the first examples of this so-called linear writing were discovered by the famous English archaeologist Arthur Evans in 1900 during the excavations of another large Cretan city of Knossos. In total, Evans found samples of three clearly related types of Minoan writing there.

Artur Evans

Arthur Evans

The first of them included signs that had, like the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, a pictorial character and depicted various specific objects. Evans called it the Cretan hieroglyph. Two other types of writing of the ancient Cretans with signs of generalized outlines, for the most part clearly lost direct resemblance to their pictorial prototypes, received the names of linear writing A and linear writing B.

Attempts to decipher the Cretan script began with their discovery, but for a long time were unsuccessful. Just before the Second World War, a very young British researcher, Michael Ventris (1922-1956), who was destined to solve this most difficult problem, began to work on deciphering linear writing. The path to its success was largely paved by the works of American scientists-Alice Kober and Emmett Bonett.

Ventris ' success came in 1952, when, using the results of Kober's formal analysis of inscriptions, he was able to develop much more deeply her observations about the presence of grammatical endings in the language under study and was able to create a special coordinate grid reflecting their alternation. Now it remained to find out which of the ancient languages could fit into the grid he had obtained.

Michael Ventris

Michael Ventris

For many years, Ventris thought that the language of the Linear B tablets should be Etruscan, because the language of the Etruscans, the ancient inhabitants of Italy, according to many sources, is connected with the Aegean world. In any case, he did not allow the idea that it could be Greek. At one time, following the theory of his compatriot Evans, Ventris even wrote: "The hypothesis that the Minoan language may have been Greek is, of course, based on a clear disregard for historical probability."

However, the Etruscan language did not grammatically fit the Ventris grid in any way. And then the researcher decided, just in case, for the sake of the experiment, to check how well the Greek would fit it. The result was amazing: the Greek language was perfect. The deciphering of Linear B by Michael Ventris made it possible not only to read the ancient Greek texts of the second half of the second millennium BC but also created the basis for fruitful research of other monuments of the pre-Greek writing of the Aegean, including the writing of the Phaistos disk.

Round after round after round

Thanks to the achievements of Ventris, it was actually possible to read the vast majority of inscriptions made in the linear letter A, many of the signs of which coincide with the signs of Linear B. With the writing of the Phaistos disk, everything is much more complicated. The successes can only be described as partial. Moreover, not only professional linguists but also numerous amateurs and enthusiasts are struggling to decipher it.

The Russian historian and linguist A. A. Molchanov came closest to solving the mystery of the mysterious inscription on the disk. At one time, the journal "Science and Life" already told about his works (see No. 2, 1983), and in the most complete form, they are described in his book "Messengers of Lost Civilizations (Writings of the ancient Aegeida)" (Moscow, "Science", 1992).


A.A. Molchanov

So, linguist A. Molchanov with care and thoroughness of a true professional held its analysis of the text and came to the conclusion that the so-called sign 02 — human head with a cock comb — sends a mixed image of a man and cock — animal, revered since ancient times on the island of Crete as an attribute of the Supreme solar deity.

According to the ancient mythological and historical tradition, the ancient Cretan lords, descendants of King Minos, raised their family to the sun god and the rooster served as their ancestral emblem. The fact that the sacred dynastic symbol served as the prototype for the sign 02 allowed Molchanov to consider it a determinative, in other words, a determinant of the names of Minoan rulers. In the text, this sign is accompanied by 19 words. Hence, it lists the names of 19 Minoan rulers.

Journalist Vladimir Mikhailov, after many years of working on the decryption of the disk, found, as he believes, the key to the mystery. In his opinion, the disc reproduces the prayers that Cretan grain growers sang during the cultivation of the fields and harvesting. On the front side of the disk is supposedly a prayer for the "rebirth of the bread spirit".

However, the most original interpretation of the text of the Phaistos disk was proposed by the well-known Gennady Grinevich, a geologist by profession. Considering the inscriptions of the Phaistos disk to be similar to the Slavic script of the type "devils and cuts", he deciphers the front side of the disk in this way:

You can't count the sorrows of the past, but the sorrows of the present are more bitter. In a new place, you will feel them. All together. That was sent to us by God? A place in the world of God. Don't count the past feuds. The place that God has willed for you, surround it in close rows. Protect it day and night. Not the place — the will. Her children are still alive, knowing who they are in this world.

the front side of the disk

We will live again, there will be the worship of God, everything will be in the past — we will forget who we are. There are children - there are ties - let's forget who we are. What to count, God. Reseune eyes enchants. You can't get away from it, you can't get rid of it. Not once will it be, we will hear: whose will you be, trotters, what are the honors for you, helmets in curls, conversations about you? If we don't eat it yet, we'll eat it.

The text on the reverse side

When deciphering, A. A. Molchanov used combinatorial analysis. First of all, he identified the personal names of the rulers on the disk, and then-toponyms, that is, the names of Cretan cities. Having successfully solved this problem, the researcher was able to build a so-called artificial bilingual, that is, an artificially created bilingual inscription, the reading of some of the words of which is known from previously deciphered monuments.

Having created such a bilingual, it was possible to work with it in the same way that a century and a half ago Francois Champollion worked with the actually extant Greek-Egyptian bilingual-the Rosetta stone (which allowed him to read Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time). The method of A. A. Molchanov was highly appreciated by many outstanding scientists-Academician A.V. Artsikhovsky, I. D. Amusin, N. Ya. Merpert, L. A. Gindin, O. S. Shirokov and others.

It allowed us to read most of the signs of the Phaistos Disk and not only in general terms, but also with some detail to understand the content of the inscription. According to Molchanov, the disc contains a message about the dedication of this object to the sanctuary by the king of Knossos (the main center of ancient Crete) and the subordinate rulers of other Cretan cities. Obviously, the disk did not exist in the singular: each of the participants in the dedication, most likely, received a personal copy, made by replication. One of these copies, which belonged to the ruler of Festus, has come down to us. It is possible to find other copies of the disk or fragments of them on Crete in the future.

Signs of the Phaistos disc and their phonetic meanings according to Grinevich

Signs of the Phaistos disc and their phonetic meanings according to Grinevich

The text of the Fest disk in the string layout

The text of the Fest disk in the string layout

According to Grinevich's hypothesis, a certain tribe of the Lynx was forced to leave their homeland in Tripoli, in present-day Ukraine, and move to the island of Crete, where they created the original culture of the island. Grinevich, back in Soviet times, several times addressed his hypothesis to the Institute of Slavic Studies and Balkanistics, the Institute of the Russian Language of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and the Moscow State University, but everywhere he received negative responses.

Who just did not try to unravel the contents of the mysterious inscription: historians, linguists, and just lovers of antiquity all over the world! What have you not tried to read on the Phaistos Disk! Sometimes a hymn in honor of the supreme deity, sometimes a "guide" to the holy places of Crete, sometimes a short historical chronicle… Some researchers compared the signs on the disk with the signs of other known writing systems. Others tried to guess the meaning of the signs based on their appearance. Still, others saw the key to the solution, calculating how often certain signs are found in the inscription. To no avail.



One of the most recent hypotheses was published in the journal "Science and Life "(see No. 1, 1998). Its author is the German philologist D. Olenroth-suggested that the inscription was made not by signs of a real writing system, but by a kind of cipher, behind which the letters of the classical ancient Greek alphabet are hidden. Based on this premise, Ohlenroth read on one side of the disc the magical rite in honor of the Greek goddess Demeter, and other information about the temple of Zeus in the city of Tiryns, one of the major centers of the Mycenaean civilization, which flourished in the Second Millennium BC in the South of the Balkan Peninsula.

Reading, and the approach to decryption, etc. Olenrota, cause several fundamental objections.

Undoubtedly, everyone is free to act in their own way, you can start decrypting from a "clean slate". But it would probably be more correct if the author, when starting to work on the inscription, relied on already firmly established facts. For example, today most researchers believe that the writing system used on the disk is not alphabetic, but syllabic. In other words, each sign of this script corresponds not to a single sound of speech (as in the Greek or any other alphabet), but to an entire syllable.

It is estimated that in the syllabic script of the Phaistos disc there were 60-70 characters, 45 of which are found on the disc itself. Everyone will agree that 60-70 characters is too much for alphabetic writing (the modern Russian alphabet has 33 letters, the alphabets of European countries-even less, the classical Greek alphabet had 27, and then 24 letters).

disk Phaistos

However, D. Ohlenroth trying to connect these two different systems of letters. Some signs of the Phaistos disc, in his opinion, do not express single sounds, but diphthongs (that is, combinations of vowels, for example — ai, hey, eu). From my point of view, this does not add to the credibility of his hypothesis: diphthongs in Greek were always written separately. And the following.

Under the proposed Alorotom deciphering one and the same Greek letter somehow can be expressed on a disk different signs. So, the letter "sigma "(c) corresponds to four dissimilar signs, the letter" iota "(i) — three, the letter" omicron " (o) - two… What is the point of using this kind of strange cipher? No one would have been able to use it.

As already mentioned, the Phaistos disk appeared in 1600 BC, and the material available to scientists today proves that the Greek alphabet did not appear earlier than the IX century BC. It was formed on the model of the Phoenician script, as evidenced by the similarity in the spelling of the letters, and even in their names. But the Phoenician letter itself (which, by the way, had signs only for consonants) still appeared later than the Phaistos disc. What gave the scientist the reason to push the origin of the Greek alphabet to a more ancient time?

And finally, the third objection. Ohlenroth believes that the homeland of the Phaistos Disk is not of Crete, where he was found, and the mainland of Greece. This follows from the Greek language in which the inscription is said to be composed (Greek was not yet spoken in Crete at that time), and from its content, which tells about Greek, and not about Cretan temples.

However, there is much evidence that the Phaistos disc was created in Crete. Evidence of this is the island origin of the clay from which the disk is fashioned, and the local, Cretan realities became the prototypes of all the signs of the disk. Especially important is the copper axe found by archaeologists in one of the Cretan caves, which dates back to the same time as the disk.

It has a distinctive inscription, interspersed with the letters of the Phaistos Disc and the so-called linear letter A, which was widely used in Crete at that time. (The letter A was used to convey Cretan, that is, Minoan, a non-Indo-European language.) And therefore, there is no doubt that these two systems of writing functioned on the island at the same time, were interchangeable. Apparently, they were used in different spheres of life: the linear letter A served for business, economic documents, and the letter of the Phaistos disk - for religious, sacred texts. This also confirms that the language of the Phaistos disc is not Greek, but Minoan.

Offering his own interpretation, Olenroth reads the inscription on the disk from the center to the edge and gets the meaning he needs. However, some experts who have studied the technique of drawing signs believe that this process went from the edge to the center. It would seem that then the inscription should be read exactly like this.

So, despite some success, the mystery of the writing of the Phaistos disc remains almost as unsolvable as it was a century ago. How sad it is to realize this.

Related tags:

Phaistos disk  mistery  decoding  solving  conspiracy theory  scientists

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