The Disk of Phaistos

Object 77 in our Charterhouse in 100 Objects series is an exact replica of the mysterious 'Disc of Phaistos', discovered by archaeologists in 1908.

The disk was discovered at the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete. It is a fired clay disc measuring about 15cm in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. It is so unusual that some scholars suspected it was a modern hoax, although most archaeologists accept that it is genuine, probably dating from the second millennium BC (the late Minoan Bronze Age).

The disc features a total of 45 different symbols, but what do they mean? For many years scholars tried, without success, to crack the code, which differs from other early forms of writing (hieroglyphs, Linear A and Linear B). In a recent breakthrough, Dr Gareth Owens, a linguist who has studied Minoan scripts for over 30 years, claims to have deciphered part of the text: he believes that each symbol represents a syllable and he has identified three key words, reading in a spiral direction from the outside rim to the inside, possibly forming a poem in honour of “the goddess of love who glows and grows dim”. Is he right? Opinions differ, so have a look at the disc and see if you can solve the mystery!

The Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete 

More information can be found using the links below: