Phaistos Disc

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Phaistos Disc
Δίσκος της Φαιστού πλευρά Α 6380.JPG
The Phaistos Disc (side A)
Material Clay
Created Second millennium B.C.
Discovered July 3, 1908 at Phaistos, Crete, by Luigi Pernier
Present location Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete
Palace complex at Phaistos

The Phaistos Disc (also spelled Phaistos Disk, Phaestos Disc) is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (second millennium B.C.). Now, the island of Crete is part of modern Greece. The disk is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. This unique object is now on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion.

The disc was discovered in 1908 by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos, and features 241 tokens, comprising 45 unique signs, which were apparently made by pressing hieroglyphic "seals" into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling toward the center of the disk.

The Phaistos Disc captured the imagination of amateur and professional archeologists, and many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc's signs. While it is not clear that it is a script, most attempted decipherments assume that it is; most additionally assume a syllabary, others an alphabet or logography. Attempts at decipherment are generally thought to be unlikely to succeed unless more examples of the signs are found, as it is generally agreed that there is not enough context available for a meaningful analysis.

Although the Phaistos Disc is generally accepted as authentic by archaeologists, a few scholars believe that the disc is a forgery or a hoax.


Tablet PH-1

The Phaistos Disc was discovered in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos, near Hagia Triada, on the south coast of Crete;[1] specifically the disc was found in the basement of room 8 in building 101 of a group of buildings to the northeast of the main palace. This grouping of four rooms also served as a formal entry into the palace complex. Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier recovered this remarkably intact "dish", about 15 cm in diameter and uniformly slightly more than one centimetre in thickness, on 3 July 1908 during his excavation of the first Minoan palace.

It was found in the main cell of an underground "temple depository". These basement cells, only accessible from above, were neatly covered with a layer of fine plaster. Their content was poor in precious artifacts, but rich in black earth and ashes, mixed with burnt bovine bones. In the northern part of the main cell, in the same black layer, a few inches south-east of the disc and about twenty inches above the floor, Linear A tablet PH 1 was also found. The site apparently collapsed as a result of an earthquake, possibly linked with the eruption of the Santorini volcano that affected large parts of the Mediterranean region during the mid second millennium B.C.


The Phaistos Disc is generally accepted as authentic by archaeologists.[2] The assumption of authenticity is based on the excavation records by Luigi Pernier. This assumption is supported by the later discovery of the Arkalochori Axe with similar but not identical glyphs.[3]

The possibility that the disc is a 1908 forgery or hoax has been raised by two or three scholars.[4][5][6] According to a report in The Times the date of manufacture has never been established by thermoluminescence.[7] In his 2008 review, Robinson does not endorse the forgery arguments, but argues that "a thermoluminescence test for the Phaistos Disc is imperative. It will either confirm that new finds are worth hunting for, or it will stop scholars from wasting their effort."[4]

A gold signet ring from Knossos (the Mavro Spilio ring), found in 1926, contains a Linear A inscription developed in a field defined by a spiral—similar to the Phaistos Disc.[8] This is considered as evidence that the Phaistos Disc is a genuine Minoan artifact.[9]


Yves Duhoux (1977) dates the disc to between 1850 B.C. and 1600 B.C. (MMIII) on the basis of Luigi Pernier's report, which says that the Disc was in a Middle Minoan undisturbed context. Jeppesen (1963) dates it to after 1400 (LMII-III). Doubting the viability of Pernier's report, Louis Godart (1990) resigns himself to admitting that archaeologically, the disc may be dated to anywhere in Middle or Late Minoan times (MMI-LMIII, a period spanning most of the second millennium B.C.). J. Best suggests a date in the first half of the fourteenth century B.C. (LMIIIA) based on his dating of tablet PH 1.[10]


The inscription was apparently made by pressing pre-formed hieroglyphic "seals" into the soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling toward the center of the disk. It was then fired at high temperature. The unique character of the Phaistos Disc stems from the fact that the entire text was inscribed in this way, reproducing a body of text with reusable characters.

The German typesetter and linguist Herbert Brekle, in his article "The typographic principle" in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, argues that the Phaistos Disc is an early document of movable type printing, since it meets the essential criteria of typographic printing, that of type identity:

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An early clear incidence for the realization of the typographic principle is the notorious Phaistos Disc (ca. 1800–1600 B.C.). If the disc is, as assumed, a textual representation, we are really dealing with a "printed" text, which fulfills all definitional criteria of the typographic principle. The spiral sequencing of the graphematical units, the fact that they are impressed in a clay disc (blind printing!) and not imprinted are merely possible technological variants of textual representation. The decisive factor is that the material "types" are proven to be repeatedly instantiated on the clay disc.[11]

As a medieval example for the same technique he goes on to cite the Prüfening dedicatory inscription.[12][13]

In his work on decipherment, Benjamin Schwartz also refers to the Phaistos Disc as "the first movable type".[14]

In his popular science book Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond describes the disc as an example of a technological advancement that did not become widespread because it was made at the wrong time in history, and contrasts this with Gutenberg's printing press.[15]


Side A (Original)
Side B (Original)


There are 242 tokens on the disc, comprising 45 unique signs. Many of these 45 signs represent easily identifiable every-day things. In addition to these, there is a small diagonal line that occurs underneath the final sign in a group a total of 18 times. The disc shows traces of corrections made by the scribe in several places. The 45 symbols were numbered by Arthur Evans from 01 to 45, and this numbering has become the conventional reference used by most researchers. Some symbols have been compared with Linear A characters by Nahm,[16] Timm,[3] and others. Other scholars (J. Best, S. Davis) have pointed to similar resemblances with the Anatolian hieroglyphs, or with Egyptian hieroglyphs (A. Cuny). In the table below, the character "names" as given by Louis Godart (1995) are given in upper case; where other description or elaboration applies, they are given in lower case.

Sign UCS Phaistos Disc Sign (Godart and UCS name) Description Count Remarks
01 01 𐇐 PEDESTRIAN marching figure of a human 11
02 02 𐇑 PLUMED HEAD head of human with crested helmet 19 the most frequent symbol, always word-initial (if direction is inward)
03 03 𐇒 TATTOOED HEAD a bald human head in profile, with tattoo or jewellery on the cheek 2 on side A only
04 04 𐇓 CAPTIVE a standing human figure with bound arms 1
05 05 𐇔 CHILD 1
06 06 𐇕 WOMAN 4
07 07 𐇖 HELMET a bell-shaped symbol 18
08 08 𐇗 GAUNTLET fist with cestus 5
09 09 𐇘 TIARA 2 on side B only
10 10 𐇙 ARROW 4 on side A only
11 11 𐇚 BOW 1
12 12 𐇛 SHIELD 17 12 times in the group 02-12
13 13 𐇜 CLUB 6
14 14 𐇝 MANACLES the flat tops of the two prominences in this figure as well as the slots in the base are characteristic features of manacles, the slots being for the attachment of thongs 2 on both sides
15 15 𐇞 MATTOCK 1
16 16 𐇟 SAW knife 2 on side B only
17 17 𐇠 LID instrument for cutting leather 1
18 18 𐇡 BOOMERANG carpenter's angle 12
19 19 𐇢 CARPENTRY PLANE Y shape 3 on side A only
20 20 𐇣 DOLIUM handled vase 2 on side B only
21 21 𐇤 COMB possibly a palace floorplan[17] 2 on side A only
22 22 𐇥 SLING double pipe 5 on side B only
23 23 𐇦 COLUMN square headed mallet 11
24 24 𐇧 BEEHIVE pagoda-like building 6
25 25 𐇨 SHIP a vertical symbol of ship 7
26 26 𐇩 HORN of ox 6
27 27 𐇪 HIDE of animal, probably an ox 15
28 28 𐇫 BULLS LEG ox's foot 2 on side A only
29 29 𐇬 CAT head of animal of the feline family 11
30 30 𐇭 RAM head of horned sheep 1
31 31 𐇮 EAGLE flying bird 5 on side A only
32 32 𐇯 DOVE seated dove 3
33 33 𐇰 TUNNY fish (the horse mackerel or common tunny, Thunnus thynnus) 6
34 34 𐇱 BEE insect, possibly a bee 3
35 35 𐇲 PLANE TREE plant or tree sign; the Oriental plane (Platanus orientalis) 11
36 36 𐇳 VINE olive branch 4 on side B only
37 37 𐇴 PAPYRUS plant with a fan-shaped flower 4
38 38 𐇵 ROSETTE maguerite or star-anemone; eight-petaled flower 4
39 39 𐇶 LILY saffron flower, Ψ shape 4
40 40 𐇷 OX BACK 6
41 41 𐇸 FLUTE 2 on side A only
42 42 𐇹 GRATER 1
43 43 𐇺 STRAINER triangle with internal granulation 1
44 44 𐇻 SMALL AXE 1
45 45 𐇼 WAVY BAND water 6

The frequency distribution of the Phaistos Disc signs is:

Instances 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Frequency 1 1 1 1 1 4 1 6 3 6 3 8 9 Total = 45 signs
Multiplied 19 18 17 15 12 44 7 36 15 24 9 16 9 Total = 241 tokens

The nine hapaxes, i.e. occurring just once, are 04 (A5), 05 (B3), 11 (A13), 15 (B8), 17 (A24), 30 (B27), 42 (B9), 43 (B4), 44 (A7). Of the eight twice-occurring symbols, four (03, 21, 28, 41) occur on side A only, three (09, 16, 20) on side B only, and only one (14) on both sides.

Oblique stroke signs

There are a number of signs marked with an oblique stroke; the strokes are not imprinted but carved by hand, and are attached to the first or last sign of a "word", depending on the direction of reading chosen. Their meaning is a matter of discussion. One hypothesis, supported by Evans, Duhoux, Ohlenroth and others, is that they were used to subdivide the text into paragraphs, but alternative meanings have been offered by other scholars.


Evans, at one point, published an assertion that the disc had been written, and should be read, from the center out; because it would have been easiest to place the inscription first and then size the disc to fit the text. There is general agreement that he was wrong, and Evans himself later changed his mind: the inscription was made, and should be read, from the outside in toward the centre. The centres of the spirals are not in the centre of the disc, and some of the symbols near the centre are crowded, as though the maker was cramped for space. One pair of symbols are set top-to-bottom, so it is hard to tell what order they should be in. Except in the cramped section, when there are overstrikes, the inner symbol overlies the outer symbol. Jean Faucounau has proposed a reconstruction of the scribe's movements, which would also require an inward direction; Yves Duhoux says that any outward reading may be discarded. Despite this consensus, there are still a few such attempted decipherments (See Phaistos Disc decipherment claims).

In addition to the question of the directionality of the text on the disc itself, different viewpoints are held as to how the Phaistos Disc characters should be displayed when transcribed into text. The disc itself probably has right-to-left directionality (like Arabic), if reading proceeds from the outside to the centre; this means that the reading direction is into the faces of the people and animals, as it is in Egyptian and Anatolian. Phaistos Disc characters are shown with left-to-right directionality in this article, with the glyphs mirrored compared to their orientation on the disc; which is also the typical practice for edited Egyptian and Anatolian hieroglyphic text.

Inscription text

The following is a rendering of the Phaistos Disc inscription in Unicode characters (the text will only be displayed correctly if a font that supports Unicode Phaistos Disc characters, such as Everson Mono or Code2001,[18] is installed):

Side A

¦ 𐇑𐇛𐇜𐇐𐇡𐇽 | 𐇧𐇷𐇛 | 𐇬𐇼𐇖𐇽 | 𐇬𐇬𐇱 | 𐇑𐇛𐇓𐇷𐇰 | 𐇪𐇼𐇖𐇛 | 𐇪𐇻𐇗 | 𐇑𐇛𐇕𐇡[.] | 𐇮𐇩𐇲 | 𐇑𐇛𐇸𐇢𐇲 | 𐇐𐇸𐇷𐇖 | 𐇑𐇛𐇯𐇦𐇵𐇽 | 𐇶𐇚 | 𐇑𐇪𐇨𐇙𐇦𐇡 | 𐇫𐇐𐇽 | 𐇑𐇛𐇮𐇩𐇽 | 𐇑𐇛𐇪𐇪𐇲𐇴𐇤 | 𐇰𐇦 | 𐇑𐇛𐇮𐇩𐇽 | 𐇑𐇪𐇨𐇙𐇦𐇡 | 𐇫𐇐𐇽 | 𐇑𐇛𐇮𐇩𐇽 | 𐇑𐇛𐇪𐇝𐇯𐇡𐇪 | 𐇕𐇡𐇠𐇢 | 𐇮𐇩𐇛 | 𐇑𐇛𐇜𐇐 | 𐇦𐇢𐇲𐇽 | 𐇙𐇒𐇵 | 𐇑𐇛𐇪𐇪𐇲𐇴𐇤 | 𐇜𐇐 | 𐇙𐇒𐇵 |

Side B

¦ 𐇑𐇛𐇥𐇷𐇖 | 𐇪𐇼𐇖𐇲 | 𐇑𐇴𐇦𐇔𐇽 | 𐇥𐇨𐇪 | 𐇰𐇧𐇣𐇛 | 𐇟𐇦𐇡𐇺𐇽 | 𐇜𐇐𐇶𐇰 | 𐇞𐇖𐇜𐇐𐇡 | 𐇥𐇴𐇹𐇨 | 𐇖𐇧𐇷𐇲 | 𐇑𐇩𐇳𐇷 | 𐇪𐇨𐇵𐇐 | 𐇬𐇧𐇧𐇣𐇲 | 𐇟𐇝𐇡 | 𐇬𐇰𐇐 | 𐇕𐇲𐇯𐇶𐇰 | 𐇑𐇘𐇪𐇐 | 𐇬𐇳𐇖𐇗𐇽 | 𐇬𐇗𐇜 | 𐇬𐇼𐇖𐇽 | 𐇥𐇬𐇳𐇖𐇗𐇽 | 𐇪𐇱𐇦𐇨 | 𐇖𐇡𐇲 | 𐇖𐇼𐇖𐇽 | 𐇖𐇦𐇡𐇧 | 𐇥𐇬𐇳𐇖𐇗𐇽 | 𐇘𐇭𐇶𐇡𐇖 | 𐇑𐇕𐇲𐇦𐇖 | 𐇬𐇱𐇦𐇨 | 𐇼𐇖𐇽 |

Image of the transcription for those who do not have the appropriate fonts installed.
Fields numbering by Louis Godart

There are 61 "words", 31 on side A and 30 on side B (numbered A1 to A31 and B1 to B30, outside to inside), here read outside-to-inside (putting the "plumed head" signs word-initially and the strokes word-finally). The shortest words are two symbols in length, the longest seven symbols. The strokes are here transcribed as diagonal strokes (/). The transcription begins at the vertical line of five dots, circling the rim of the disc once, clockwise (13 words on A, 12 words on B) before spiralling toward the center (18 more words on each side). There is one word-final effaced sign at A8, which Godart (1995:101) notes as resembling sign 3 or 20; or less probably 8 or 44. Evans considered side A as the front side, but technical arguments have since been forwarded favouring side B as the front side.

The signs in the transcription below appear in left-to-right orientation, and the reader may read into the faces of the human and animal figures (as one reads Egyptian and Anatolian hieroglyphs):

(A1) 021213011846 (A2) 244012 (A3) 29450746 (A4) 292934
(A5) 0212044033 (A6) 27450712 (A7) 274408 (A8) 02120618[.]
(A9) 312635 (A10) 0212411935 (A11) 01414007 (A12) 021232233846
(A13) 3911 (A14) 022725102318 (A15) 280146 (A16) 0212312646
(A17) 02122727353721 (A18) 332346 (A19) 0212312646 (A20) 022725102318
(A21) 280146 (A22) 0212312646 (A23) 02122714321827 (A24) 0618171946
(A25) 312612 (A26) 02121301 (A27) 23193546 (A28) 100338
(A29) 02122727353721 (A30) 1301 (A31) 100338
(B1) 0212224007 (B2) 27450735 (B3) 0237230546 (B4) 222527
(B5) 33242012 (B6) 1623184346 (B7) 13013933 (B8) 1507130118
(B9) 22374225 (B10) 07244035 (B11) 02263640 (B12) 27253801
(B13) 2924242035 (B14) 161418 (B15) 293301 (B16) 0635323933
(B17) 02092701 (B18) 2936070846 (B19) 290813 (B20) 29450746
(B21) 222936070846 (B22) 27342325 (B23) 071835 (B24) 07450746
(B25) 07241824 (B26) 222936070846 (B27) 0930391807 (B28) 0206352307
(B29) 29342325 (B30) 450746

In numerical transcription:[19]

Side A:

02-12-13-01-18/ 24-40-12 29-45-07/ 29-29-34 02-12-04-40-33 27-45-07-12 27-44-08 02-12-06-18-? 31-26-35 02-12-41-19-35 01-41-40-07 02-12-32-23-38/ 39-11
02-27-25-10-23-18 28-01/ 02-12-31-26/ 02-12-27-27-35-37-21 33-23 02-12-31-26/ 02-27-25-10-23-18 28-01/ 02-12-31-26/ 02-12-27-14-32-18-27 06-18-17-19 31-26-12 02-12-13-01 23-19-35/ 10-03-38 02-12-27-27-35-37-21 13-01 10-03-38

Side B:

02-12-22-40-07 27-45-07-35 02-37-23-05/ 22-25-27 33-24-20-12 16-23-18-43/ 13-01-39-33 15-07-13-01-18 22-37-42-25 07-24-40-35 02-26-36-40 27-25-38-01
29-24-24-20-35 16-14-18 29-33-01 06-35-32-39-33 02-09-27-01 29-36-07-08/ 29-08-13 29-45-07/ 22-29-36-07-08/ 27-34-23-25 07-18-35 07-45-07/ 07-23-18-24 22-29-36-07-08/ 09-30-39-18-07 02-06-35-23-07 29-34-23-25 45-07/

The "plumed head" (02) only ever occurs word-initially, in 13 instances followed by the "shield" (12, which in some instances also occurs word-finally). Six words occur twice each: The three-word sequence 02-27-25-10-23-18 28-01/ 02-12-31-26/ occurs twice (A14-16, A20-22). 02-12-31-26/ recurs for a third time (A19). Four more words occur twice each, 02-12-27-27-35-37-21 (A17, A29), 10-03-38 (A28, A31), 22-29-36-07-08/ (B21, B26) and 29-45-07/ (A3, B20).


As noted above, corrections have been made. Signs have been erased and other signs printed over it.

Godart (1995:99-107) describes these corrections, by word. They occur in the following words: A1 (signs 02-12-13-01), A4 (29-29-34) together with A5 (02-12-04), A8 (12), A10 (02-41-19?-35), A12 (12), A16 (12-31-26?), A17 (second 27?), A29 (second 27?), B1 (12-22), B3 (37?), B4 (22-25 imprinted over the same), B10 (07?-24?-40?), B13 (beside 29?). Question marks indicate uncertainty about that particular sign being the result of a correction.

Also, the borders of word B28 has been widened to make room for sign 02. See Duhoux (1977:34-35) and Godart (1995:107).

Signs in adjacent windings

There are several occurrences on side A where the same sign is at two places near each other in adjacent windings of the spiral. For example, consider the Plumed Head (sign 02) in word A1 and the Plumed Head in word A14. Three patterns of such occurrences have been identified. A computer analysis of one of them (involving most of the Plumed Head signs on side A) has been performed with the conclusion that the probability of this pattern being coincidental is small. The existence of the two other patterns further decreases the probability of coincidence.[20]

Several occurrences are caused by a correction. Also, the orientation of the signs seems to be relevant: the two Hides (sign 27) in word A29 are upside down, with the "heads" pointing to the Hide sign in the adjacent winding in word A23.

If this is indeed not coincidental then the inscription is not a one-dimensional text. Of course this does not give us a decipherment; rather it narrows down the potential decipherments.

Decipherment attempts

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A great deal of speculation developed around the disc during the twentieth century. The Phaistos Disc captured the imagination of amateur archeologists. Many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc's signs. Historically, almost anything has been proposed, including prayers, a narrative or an adventure story, a "psalterion", a call to arms, a board game, and a geometric theorem. Some of the more fanciful interpretations of its meaning are classic examples of pseudoarchaeology.

Most linguistic interpretations assume a syllabary, based on the proportion of 45 symbols in a text of 241 tokens typical for that type of script; some assume a syllabary with interspersed logographic symbols, a property of every known syllabary of the Ancient Near East (Linear B as well as cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing). There are, however, also alphabetic and purely logographical interpretations.

While enthusiasts still believe the mystery can be solved, scholarly attempts at decipherment are thought to be unlikely to succeed unless more examples of the signs turn up somewhere, as it is generally thought that there is not enough context available for meaningful analysis. Any decipherment without external confirmation, such as successful comparison to other inscriptions, is unlikely to be accepted as conclusive.

Origin of the script

Cretan or foreign origin?

There are a few main theories about the origin of the signs. For the first few decades after its discovery most scholars argued strongly against the local origin of the artifact. Evans (1909:24f.) wrote that

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when one comes to compare the figures in detail with those of the Minoan hieroglyphic signary, very great discrepancy is observable... Out of the forty-five separate signs on the Phaistos Disk, no more than ten more or less resemble Cretan hieroglyphic forms... The human figures in their outline and costume are non-Minoan... The representation of the ship also differs from all similar designs that occur either among the hieroglyphic or the linear documents of Crete.

Glotz (1925:381) claimed that the clay was not from Crete. Ipsen (1929:15) concluded that the Disc was certainly from somewhere on the Aegean. Because of its differences from Linear A or B, Ipsen found it tempting to assume, like Evans, a non-Cretan origin for the Disc. He observes, however, that since Linear A was a common Aegean script such an assumption will not resolve the problem of multiplicity.

The Arkalochori Axe and other finds have made Cretan origin more popular: female images with pendulous breasts have also been found at Malia and Phaistos. (Godart 1995:125). Duhoux asserts the Cretan provenance of the disc; in his review of current research, Trauth (1990:154) concludes that "Crete as [the] source of the Disc can no longer be called into question". Andrew Robinson (2008,) in a review in Nature, wrote "Most scholars today, including Duhoux, think it a plausible working hypothesis that the disc was made in Crete."

Original invention or derivation?

Ipsen (1929:11) also speaks against an entirely independent origin of the scripts, arguing that its inventors did not leap from no knowledge of writing to a syllabic script with these elegant signs. He goes on to cite Hieroglyphic Luwian as a "perfect parallel" (Ipsen 1929:17) of an original script inspired under the direct influence of other scripts (its symbol values inspired by cuneiform, its shapes by Egyptian hieroglyphs)

Schwartz (1956:108) asserts a genetic relationship between the Phaistos Disc script and the Cretan linear scripts.

Among the known scripts, there are three main candidates for being related to the Disc's script, all of them partly syllabic, partly logographic: Linear A, Anatolian hieroglyphs and Egyptian hieroglyphs. More remote possibilities are comparison with the Phoenician abjad or the Byblos syllabary.

Linear A

Some signs are close enough to both Linear A and Linear B that a few scholars[who?] believe that they may have the same phonetic values, as 12 12 = qe, 43 43 = ta2, or 31 31 = ku. But this opinion is not shared by all specialists of the Aegean Scripts. A recent systematic comparison with Linear A is that of Torsten Timm, 2004.[3] Based on the Linear A character distribution patterns collected by Facchetti[21] Timm concludes that the language of the Disc inscription is the same as the language of Linear A. Timm identifies 20 of the 45 characters with Linear signs, assigning Linear B phonetic values to 16.

Anatolian hieroglyphs

Achterberg et al. (2004) present a systematic comparison with Anatolian hieroglyphs, resulting in a full decipherment claim (see below). In particular, they consider the stroke symbol cognate to the Luwian r(a/i) symbol, but assign it the value -ti. The stroke on A3 is identified as the personal name determinative. 01 01 is compared to the logogram SARU, a walking man or walking legs in Luwian. 02 02 is compared to word-initial a2, a head with a crown in Luwian. The "bow" 11 11 is identified as the logogram sol suus, the winged sun known from Luwian royal seals. The "shield" 12 12 is compared to the near identical Luwian logogram TURPI "bread" and assigned the value tu. 39 39 they read as the "thunderbolt", logogram of Tarhunt, in Luwian a W-shaped hieroglyph.

List of decipherment claims

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The decipherment claims listed are categorized into linguistic decipherments, identifying the language of the inscription, and non-linguistic decipherments. A purely logographical reading is not linguistic in the strict sense: while it may reveal the meaning of the inscription, it will not allow for the identification of the underlying language.


  • George Hempl, 1911 (interpretation as Ionic Greek, syllabic writing); A-side first; reading inward;
  • Florence Stawell, 1911 (interpretation as Homeric Greek, syllabic writing); B-side first; reading inward;
  • Albert Cuny, 1914 (interpretation as an ancient Egyptian document, syllabic-logographic writing);
  • Benjamin Schwarz, 1959 (interpretation as Mycenean Greek, syllabic writing, comparison to Linear B); A-side first; reading inward;
  • Jean Faucounau, 1975, (interpretation as "proto-Ionic" Greek, syllabic writing [1]; A-side first; reading inward;
  • Vladimir I. Georgiev, 1976 (interpretation as Hittite language, syllabic writing); A-side first; reading outward;
  • Steven R. Fischer, 1988 (interpretation as a Greek dialect, syllabic writing); A-side first; reading inward;
  • Kjell Aartun, 1992 (interpretation as a Semitic language, syllabic writing); A-side first; reading outward;
  • Derk Ohlenroth, 1996 (interpretation as a Greek dialect, alphabetic writing); A-side first; reading outward; numerous homophonic signs;
  • Adam Martin, 2000 (interpretation as a Greek-Minoan bilingual text, alphabetic writing); reading outward, side A as Greek, side B as Minoan
  • Achterberg et al., 2004 (interpreted as Luwian); A-side first; reading inward;
  • Torsten Timm, 2005 (syllabic writing, comparison to Linear A [2]) B-side first; reading inward;
  • Gareth Alun Owens, 2007 (interpretation as Indo-European, syllabic writing, comparison to Linear A [3]) A-side first; reading inward;

Non-linguistic or logographic

Comparison with other scripts

No Sign Linear A Arkalochori Axe Luwian hieroglyphs
01 01 SARU
02 02 04,07,10 04 A2
03 03
04 04
05 05
06 06
07 07
08 08
09 09
10 10 AB79 01 ZU
11 11 SOL SUUS
12 12 AB78 01 QE TURPI
13 13
14 14
15 15 A364 01 B232 ��
16 16 AB74 01 ZE ?
17 17 A322 01
18 18 AB37 01 TI
19 19 AB31 01 SA 11 11
20 20
21 21
22 22 A318 01
23 23 AB05 01 TO or AB06 01 NA 13 13
24 24 AB54 01 WA
25 25 AB86 01 [5]
26 26
27 27
28 28
29 29 AB80 01 MA 08 08
30 30 AB13 01 ME, AB85?
31 31 AB81 01 KU
32 32
33 33
34 34 AB39 01 PI
35 35 AB04 01 TE 09 09
36 36 AB30 01 NI
37 37
38 38
39 39 AB28 01 I 02 02 TARHUNT
40 40 AB26 01 RU or AB27 01 RE
41 41
42 42
43 43 AB66 01 TA2
44 44
45 45 AB76 01 RA2


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A set of 46 Phaistos Disc characters, comprising 45 signs and one combining oblique stroke, have been encoded in Unicode since April 2008 (Unicode version 5.1). They are assigned to the range 101D0–101FF in Plane 1 (the Supplementary Multilingual Plane). Phaistos Disc characters were encoded with strong left-to-right directionality, and so in code charts and text (such as elsewhere on this page) the glyphs are mirrored from the way they appear on the disc itself.

Phaistos Disc[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+101Dx 𐇐 𐇑 𐇒 𐇓 𐇔 𐇕 𐇖 𐇗 𐇘 𐇙 𐇚 𐇛 𐇜 𐇝 𐇞 𐇟
U+101Ex 𐇠 𐇡 𐇢 𐇣 𐇤 𐇥 𐇦 𐇧 𐇨 𐇩 𐇪 𐇫 𐇬 𐇭 𐇮 𐇯
U+101Fx 𐇰 𐇱 𐇲 𐇳 𐇴 𐇵 𐇶 𐇷 𐇸 𐇹 𐇺 𐇻 𐇼 𐇽
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Modern use

Side A of the Phaistos disc is used as the logo of FORTH, one of the largest research centers in Greece.

See also


  1. C.Michael Hogan, Phaistos fieldnotes, The Modern Antiquarian, 2007
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  4. 4.0 4.1 Robinson:2008
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  7. Dalya Alberge, "Phaistos Disc declared as fake by scholar", The Times, 12 July 2008(subscription required)
  8. Siegel CMS II,3 038
  9. Seal of the month - 2013 Heidelberg University
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  11. Brekle, Herbert E. (1997): "Das typographische Prinzip. Versuch einer Begriffsklärung", Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, Vol. 72, pp. 58–63 (60f.)
  12. Brekle, Herbert E. (1997): "Das typographische Prinzip. Versuch einer Begriffsklärung", Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, Vol. 72, pp. 58–63 (62f.)
  13. Brekle, Herbert E. (2005): Die Prüfeninger Weiheinschrift von 1119. Eine paläographisch-typographische Untersuchung (brief summary), Scriptorium Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft, Regensburg, ISBN 3-937527-06-0
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  18. Note that Code 2001 gives the glyphs right-to-left directionality, which is not recommended unless RTL overrides are in the text.
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  20. ten Cate, Arie, "Patterns on an ancient artifact: a coincidence?", Statistica Neerlandica, Vol 65, pp.116–124 (2011) doi:10.1111/j.1467-9574.2010.00478.x
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Further reading


  • Balistier, Thomas. The Phaistos Disc - an account of its unsolved mystery, Verlag Thomas Balistier, 2000.
  • Bennett, Emmett L. (1996) — Aegean Scripts, (in The World's Writing Systems, Peter T. Daniels and William Bright (Eds.) Oxford: University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0
  • Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B, Cambridge University Press, 1958.
  • Duhoux, Yves. Le disque de phaestos, Leuven, 1977.
  • Duhoux, Yves. How not to decipher the Phaistos Disc, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 104, No. 3 (2000), pp. 597–600.
  • Evans, A. J., Scripta Minoa, the written documents of Minoan Crete, with special reference to the archives of Knossos, Classic Books (1909), ISBN 0-7426-4005-1.
  • Faure, P. "Tourne disque", l'énigme du disque de Phaistos, Notre Histoire n°213, October 2003 (PDF 0.7 Mb).
  • Gaur, Albertine. 1984 — A History of Writing — Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Glotz, Gustave; Marryat Ross Dobie, E. M. Riley, The Aegean Civilization" A. A. Knopf, 1925
  • Godart, Louis. The Phaistos Disc - the enigma of an Aegean script, ITANOS Publications, 1995.
  • Kober, Alice. The Minoan Scripts: Facts and Theory, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 52, No. 1 (1948), pp. 82–103.
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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. (PDF 0.5 Mb)
  • Trauth, Michael. The Phaistos Disc and the Devil’s Advocate. On the Aporias of an Ancient Topic of Research. 1990, Glottometrika 12, pp. 151 – 173.
  • International Phaistos Disk Conference 2008, sponsored by Minerva Magazine. abstracts

Attempted decipherments

This list contains off-line accounts of various decipherments.

  • Aartun, Kjell, 'Der Diskos von Phaistos; Die beschriftete Bronzeaxt; Die Inschrift der Taragona-tafel' in Die minoische Schrift : Sprache und Texte vol. 1, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz (1992) ISBN 3-447-03273-1
  • Achterberg, Winfried; Best, Jan; Enzler, Kees; Rietveld, Lia; Woudhuizen, Fred, The Phaistos Disc: A Luwian Letter to Nestor, Publications of the Henry Frankfort Foundation vol XIII, Dutch Archeological and Historical Society, Amsterdam 2004
  • Balistier, Thomas, The Phaistos Disc - an account of its unsolved mystery, Verlag Thomas Balistier, 2000 (as above); describes Aarten's and Ohlenroth's decipherments.
  • Ephron, Henry D, (1962), "Tharso and Iaon: The Phaistos Disk, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 66. (1962), pp. 1–91. JSTOR URL
  • Faucounau, Jean, Le déchiffrement du Disque de Phaistos & Les Proto-Ioniens : histoire d'un peuple oublié, Paris 1999 & 2001.
  • Fischer, Steven R., Evidence for Hellenic Dialect in the Phaistos Disk, Herbert Lang (1988), ISBN 3-261-03703-2
  • Gordon, F. G. 1931. Through Basque to Minoan: transliterations and translations of the Minoan tablets. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Hausmann, Axel, Der Diskus von Phaistos. Ein Dokument aus Atlantis, BoD GmbH (2002), ISBN 3-8311-4548-2.
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  • Martin, Adam, Der Diskos von Phaistos - Ein zweisprachiges Dokument geschrieben in einer frühgriechischen Alphabetschrift, Ludwig Auer Verlag (2000), ISBN 3-9807169-1-0.
  • Ohlenroth, Derk, Das Abaton des lykäischen Zeus und der Hain der Elaia: Zum Diskos von Phaistos und zur frühen griechischen Schriftkultur, M. Niemeyer (1996), ISBN 3-484-80008-9.
  • Polygiannakis, Ο Δισκος της Φαιστού Μιλάει Ελληνικά (The Phaistos disk speaks in Greek), Georgiadis, Athens (2000).
  • Pomerance, Leon, The Phaistos Disk: An Interpretation of Astronomical Symbols, Paul Astroms forlag, Goteborg (1976). reviewed by D. H. Kelley in The Journal of Archeoastronomy (Vol II, number 3, Summer 1979)
  • Reczko, Wolfgang, "Analyzing and dating the structure of the Phaistos Disk", Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (2009) [6] doi:10.1007/s12520-009-0015-2
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  • Whittaker, Helène, "Social and Symbolic Aspects of Minoan writing", European Journal of Archaeology 8:1, 29-41 (2005) doi:10.1177/1461957105058207

External links

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