In a century which has seen the cracking of Linear B, Ugaritic, and
other orthographic systems, the Phaistos Disk has eluded decipherment. The disk
is thought to date from around 1700 BC.
The disc of Phaistos is the most important example of hieroglyphic
inscription from Crete and was discovered in 1903 in a small room near the
depositories of the "archive chamber", in the north - east apartments
of the palace, together with a Linear A tablet and pottery dated to the
beginning of the Neo-palatial period (1700- 1600 B.C.).
The exact location of Phaistos was first determined in the middle of the 19th
century by the British admiral Spratt, while the archaeological investigation of
the palace started in 1884 by the Italians F. Halbherr and A. Taramelli.
the declaration of the independent Cretan State in 1898, excavations were
carried out by F. Halbherr and L. Pernier in 1900-1904 and later, in 1950-1971,
by Doro Levi, under the auspices of the Italian Archaeological School at Athens.
The Phaistos Disk, today on display at
the Iraklion Archaeological Museum,
was discovered in Crete
Although many inscriptions were found by the archaeologists, they are all in
Linear A code which is still undecipherd, and all we know about the site, even
its name are based to the ancient writers and findings from Knossos.
According to mythology, Phaistos was the seat of king Radamanthis, brother of
king Minos. It was also the city that gave birth to the great wise man and
soothsayer Epimenidis, one of the seven wise men of the ancient world.
Excavations by archaeologists have unearthed ruins of the Neolithic times (3.000
During the Minoan times, Phaistos was a very important city-state. Its dominion,
at its peak, stretched from Lithinon to Psychion and included the Paximadia
islands. The city participated to the Trojan war and later became one of the
most important cities-states of the Dorian period.
Phaistos continued to flourish during Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic times.
It was destroyed by the Gortynians during the 3rd century B.C. In spite of that,
Phaistos continued to exist during the Roman period.
Phaistos had two ports, Matala and Kommos.
Since 1900, continuous archaeological excavations from the
Italian Archaeological School, have brought to light the magnificent Minoan
palace of Phaistos with its great royal courts, the great staircases, the
theatre, the storerooms and the famous disk of Phaistos.
The first palace was built at 2.000 B.C. This palace was destroyed at 1.700 B.C.
by an earthquake. It was built again, more luxurious and magnificent and it was
destroyed again, probably by another earthquake, at 1.400 B.C.
The location of the palace was carefully chosen, so as not only to absolutely
control the valley of Messara, but to also offer a panoramic view of the
surrounding area with the scattered villages, just like today, at the foot of
the mountains Psiloritis and Asterousia.
The palace dominated and controlled the Messara valley and it was the center of
the city. It was the administrational and economical center of the area.
Goods not only for consumption but mainly for trade were kept in its huge
storerooms. The palace was surrounded by luxurious mansions and crowded urban
communities. Along with the surrounding settlements covered an area of 18.000
A paved road leads to the ruins of the Royal Minoan villa of Agia Triada, 3 km
west of Phaistos.
Both surfaces of this clay disc are covered with hieroglyphs arranged in a
spiral zone, impressed on the clay when it was damp. The signs make up
groups divided from each other by vertical lines, and each of these groups
should represent a word.
view larger image
Forty five different types of signs have been distinguished, of which a
few can be identified with the hieroglyphs in use in the Proto- palatial
Some hieroglyphic sequences recur like refrains, suggesting a religious
hymn, and Pernier regards the content of the text as ritual. Others have
suggested that the text is a list of soldiers, and lately Davis has
interpreted it as a document in the Hittic language in which a king
discusses the erection of the Palace of Phaistos.
In a century which has seen the cracking of Linear B, Ugaritic,
and other orthographic systems, the Phaistos Disk has eluded decipherment. The
disk is thought to date from around 1700 BC. It is a roundish disk of clay, with
symbols stamped into it. The text consists of 61 words, 16 of which are
accompanied by a mysterious "slash" mark.
There are 45 different
symbols occurring 241 times. The symbols portray recognizable objects like human
figures and body parts, animals, weapons, and plants. Since the text of the disk
is so short, decipherment by the statistical cryptographic techniques employed
by Michael Ventris in cracking Linear B are impossible.
Late last year, however,
Dr. Keith A.J. Massey and his twin brother Rev. Kevin Massey-Gillespie
discovered the secret they believe provides the key to cracking the Phaistos
Another ancient writing system provides the key to reading the
At Byblos in modern day Lebanon, an advanced culture flourished
for centuries. There are many signs of contact between Ancient Crete and Byblos,
including signs of orthographic borrowing as pointed out by Victor Kenna in
"The Stamp Seal, Byblos 6593" Kadmos 9 (1970) pp 93-96.
examples of the yet undeciphered Linear A script have recently been found in
Turkey, providing evidence of orthographic relationships between Crete and Asia
The Proto-Byblic script was used in the early part of the 2nd millenium
BC, a time contemporary with the supposed date of the Phaistos Disk. The
underlying language of the Proto-Byblic script was Semitic. It is a linear
script which displays many identifiable objects, like weapons, human figures,
and body parts. The Proto-Byblic script, catalogued by Maurice Dunand in the
1940's bears striking resemblance to the symbols of the Phaistos Disk. The
similarity of one Proto-Byblic character to a Phaistos symbol was noted by
Dunand in his book Byblia Grammata, Beyrouth, 1945 on p 90, "Il est presque
identique a celui du disque de Phaestos qu-Evans avait identifie avec une
colombe." [ It is almost identical to something from the disk of Phaistos
which (Sir Arthur) Evans has identified with a dove.] Dunand did not pursue his
observation of the similarities, yet it is this Proto-Byblic script which is
demonstrated by the Massey twins as being a closely related orthographic system
to the Phaistos Disk. Eduard Dhorme, one of the decipherers of Hittite,
published the first consonantal values for the Proto-Byblic script in SYRIA XXV
1946 in an article, "Dechiffrement des Inscriptions Pseudo-Hieroglyphicques
de Byblos." A comparison of these values with the symbols of the Phaistos
Disk yielded consonantal assignments for a surprising amount of the writing on
It should be noted here that all previous attempts to decipher the
Phaistos Disk have been subjective attempts, assigning phonetic values to the
characters with no true objective criteria. This is therefore the first effort
at cracking the disk by OBJECTIVE determinations. When these consonantal values
are examined, elements of an Hellenic language emerge in the text of the disk.
Scholars had never known what the significence of a mysterious "slash"
on 16 of the words of the Phaistos Disk. We observed, based on our values, that
each of these 16 words are numerals counting commodities on the disk, similar to
the majority of Linear B texts.
by Steven Roger Fischer
Editorial Review - New Scientist, Paul
The most impressive aspect of Glyphbreaker is not so much
that this remarkable man has cracked two entirely different
scripts, a feat unique in the history of epigraphy, but
rather that he has done so despite tremendous privations in
his life.... Regardless of the eventual validity of
Fischer's solutions--and certainly to a nonlinguist who does
not know a grapheme from a glyph, his method, as
painstakingly explained here, appears logical, objective and
impeccable--one cannot but admire the selfless and
single-minded dedication with which he has pursued his goal.
When he successfully deciphered the Rongorongo script of
Easter Islandthe mysterious system of glyphs in which the
island's original inhabitants had recorded their ritual
chants and ceremoniesSteven Roger Fischer gained a unique
place in the pantheon of glyphbreakers. He is the only
person who has ever deciphered not one but two ancient
scripts. Both of these scripts yield clues of great
historical importance. Fischer's previous decipherment, of a
Cretan artifact called the Phaistos Disk, provided the key
to the ancient Minoan language and showed it to be closely
related to Mycenaean Greek. Contrary to prevailing
archaeological opinion, the Minoans were Greeks, and Crete's
Phaistos Disk now comprises Europe's oldest documented
literature. Fischer's decipherment of Rongorongo showed that
it was not merely a mnemonic device for recalling memorized
texts, but was physically read and was the vehicle for
creative composition. Rongorongo is thus the only known
indigen! ous script in Oceania before the twentieth century.
Filled with accounts of the remarkable journeys
and cultures he encountered, Glyphbreaker is the exciting
story of these two decipherments, by the man who now must
rank as the greatest glyphbreaker of all time.
Written by the greatest decipherer that ever lived, Steven
Roger Fischer--the only person to ever decipher two ancient
scripts--"Glyphbreaker" is the remarkable story of
his two decipherments, . the Rongorongo script of Easter
Island and the Phaistos Disk, and their historical
significance. Filled with accounts of the remarkable
journeys and cultures he encountered, the book is
fascinating reading for anyone interested in the subject. 15
illus., 5 in color Pub: 8/97.
About the Author
Steven Roger Fischer is Director of the Institute of
Polynesian Languages and Literatures, Auckland, New Zealand.
He is the first person ever who deciphered two wholly
different historical scripts. Glyphbreaker is his eighth
Decipherment of Linear B
by John Chadwick
Fascinating details of the religious
and economic history of an ancient pre-Hellenic civilization
are revealed in this celebrated account of the decipherment of
Linear B from Mycenaean Greek in the 1950s.
Bronze Age Computer Disc
by Alan Butler
The book shows how the mysterious
symbols of the Phaistos Disc, found in Crete at the
beginning of the 20th century, can be used to demonstrate a
fantastic system of measuring time, space and distance, that
existed as early as 3,500 BC in the Far West of Europe. This
book is an easy to follow read, beautifully crafted, and
with parenthesis to sift out the mathematics for people who
are willing to take the author's word. The Bronze Age
Computer Disc ends with a promise of many more revelations
MESSAGES by Jean Louis Pagé
Hard cover bilingual book (french/english)
with 272 pages all in colour and 640 images.
This bilingual archaeological book is intended
for everyone. Beautifully pictured and detailed, it reveals
the fascinating story of the discovery of the localization
of“Atlantis.” It is the first scientific deciphering of
the pictogram writing of Atlantis.
Fruit of twenty years of research, the author
guides us back to the source of our heritage clustered in
the human flight of the imagination. He leads us on the road
to find Atlantis lost 12 000 years ago.
Discover how the deciphering of the Phaistos,
Aztec and Maya disks and Egyptian frescos reveal important
messages from our past. These archaeological enigmas that
have been gazing at us for thousands of years, represent a
precious legacy from the greatest civilizations of distant
Antiquity. By meeting and joining they reveal the exact
geographical location of Atlantis and the origins of the
“Atlantis' Messages de l’Atlantide” is
the fulfilment of a 5 000 year old prophecy. It is the work
and devotion of a lifelong project that brings the past and
the future to the present.