The Phaistos Disk remains to this day, one of the great enigmas of its kind ...

In 1903 the Phaistos Disk, one of the most puzzling objects ever discovered, was found in a building at the Minoan palace at Hagia Triada on the Greek island of Crete (Phaistos site).

The Disk, 16 centimeters in diameter (or 6 inches, approximately the size of the palm of your hand) was originally dated 17th Century BCE because of some tablets of that date found next to it.

The Disk is inscribed on both sides. "Inscribed" is perhaps not the right word: a hieroglyphic text, arranged in bands, spiraling either to or from the center, has been impressed with forty- five different wooden or metal punches into the originally soft clay.

There are 241 signs in all, arranged in groups divided by vertical lines. Among them are figures of standing or running men, women, and children, heads with feather crowns, fish, birds, insects, vessels, shields, boughs, ships, tools, parts of animals, and others.

The content of the inscription has yet to be deciphered in a satisfactory manner, despite the dedicated efforts of scholars of all nations. The text is possibly a religious hymn. That the room in which it was discovered was holy is obvious from the series of thin brick partitions forming receptacles in which sacred objects were stored.

Various languages have been suggested, some of which are rather improbable, such as Basque or Finnish. According to one scholar, the text is a list of soldiers; to another it is a hymn to the "rain lord"; another believes that here the king speaks about the construction of the palace at Phaistos.

Nothing similar has ever been found in Crete - or indeed anywhere else. This is, in fact, a real anticipation of a printed inscription, several millennia before Gutenberg.

Some scholars believe the Disk may have been made in Anatolia, while more recently on the basis of some strong evidence others consider it probably Cretan.

Whatever the story of the Phaistos Disk, it remains an enigma to humankind over the millennia. Perhaps the answers to our questions will be discovered in the third millennium.


Millennium Home Page

Copyright 2003 Millenium Foundation of Canada