Saturday, February 23, 2013

27. Phaistos Disc

We're just back from a six-day trip to Greece. It's winter, so we obviously weren't sunbathing in the islands! We were staying with a friend in Athens, then the three of us headed to the mountains to stay with four other friends in Arahova. A few of them went skiing at Mount Parnassus — the hubster and I explored the village and then drove the few kilometers around to Delphi!

After our weekend in Arahova, we headed back to Athens for a day of exploring — which is when I learned about the Phaistos Disc.

The Phaistos Disc is an enigma, a circular clay disc covered with inscribed symbols on both sides that are unlike any signs in any writing system. It was discovered in a palace in the ancient city of Phaistos in southern Crete in 1908. It's thought to date to around 1700 BC.

This object has been the subject of many studies. Someone has claimed to have deciphered it, and that it was a document in an archaic form of Greek. Others say it is a poem or a song. Because no other similar artifacts have ever been found anywhere in Crete, it's thought that the object was foreign and brought in from another place. The place of its origin is extremely speculative. A sign depicts a helmet with crest, which was used later by Philistines. Another sign depict a structure similar to sarcophagus used by the Lycians of Asia Minor.

Because there is essentially no variation between different copies of the same symbol, it is very likely that stamps were used to create these highly detailed signs. While not really a printed work, some have labeled the Phaistos Disc the earliest typewritten work.

Even though the disc is generally accepted as authentic by archaeologists — 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.

The possibility that the disc is a 1908 forgery or hoax has been raised by two or three scholars. According to one report, the date of manufacture has never been established by thermoluminescence. In a 2008 review, it's argued 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." Fair enough!

OK, the end of the story is that I had to buy these:

Earrings: from George at Aphrodite Jewelers
in the Monastiraki neighborhood, Athens.

Ya know, as one of my trip souvenirs! Pretty stinkin' cool if you ask me. Thankful that the hubster encouraged me to make the purchase! xx

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