Object: Replica of Phaestos Disk

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 1 Front of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

Figure 2 Back of cast of Phaestos Disk from the Classics Collection at the SNOMNH, photo taken by author

 

C/1985/9/1
Replica of Phaestos Disk
Minoan
Crete
Late Minoan Period
Materials: Plaster

This Phaestos Disk replica is a modern cast of the Late Minoan Period original. It measures 16.5 centimeters in diameter and 1.5 centimeters in width. It was originally on loan from Dr. Allen C. Johnson, former professor of the Department of Classics at Princeton University, but since his death has become a permanent part of the Classics Collection at SNOMNH.

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo "Festos1(js)" by Jerzy Strzelecki - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

Figure 3 A view of the site of excavation of the Phaistos Disk; Photo “Festos1(js)” by Jerzy Strzelecki – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Festos1(js).jpg#/media/File:Festos1(js).jpg

The original Phaestos (or Phaistos) Disk was unearthed on the island of Crete by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in 1908. The excavation took place on the south coast of the island, and the disk gets its name from the ancient region and palacewhere it was discovered. Experts date the disk to the Minoan Neopalatial (New Palace) Period, about 1600-1450 BCE [1]. Currently, the original Phaistos Disk resides in the Heraklion Museum in Crete, along with other extremely well known objects from the Minoan time period. The Minoan people are known for their unique advancements in religion, art, and technology [2].

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo "Map Minoan Crete-en" by User:Bibi Saint-Pol - Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

Figure 4 This map depicts the island of Crete during the Minoan period. Photo “Map Minoan Crete-en” by User:Bibi Saint-Pol – Own work (data from http://metamedia.stanford.edu/imagebin/minoan%20crete%20map.JPG, map background from Image:Map greek sanctuaries-fr.svg).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg#/media/File:Map_Minoan_Crete-en.svg

The most fascinating thing about the Phaistos Disk is its mysterious symbols and figures that are inscribed in a circular spiral on both sides. Archaeologists are still unsure as to what the markings mean, or even the original purpose of the disk itself [3]. In recent years, however, scholars have claimed to make significant strides in cracking the code of the disk, translating the text, and determining its purpose and significance. Yet the fact that we still don’t know for sure the meaning of the text or reason it was used has caused some critics to question the authenticity of the disk [4]. Despite such controversy and confusion, the fact that classical archaeologists and scholars have spent so much effort over the past 107 years trying to interpret the nature of this small circular object suggests that when we ultimately and definitively crack the Phaistos Disk code, we will be able to understand much more about the Minoan culture, and the ancient world as a whole.

In this TEDtalk, Dr. Gareth Owens shares the progress he and his colleagues have made in deciphering the Phaistos Disk.

[Elizabeth Rischard]

2 Responses to “Object: Replica of Phaestos Disk”


  1. 1 Peter Aleff September 20, 2015 at 4:23 am

    For a different interpretation of this Disk as the illustrations for the fields of a gameboard, see http://phaistosgame.com.

    At the bottom of that page you will find links to a series of articles in the online journal popular-archaeology.com which explain this verifiable interpretation and document its coherence and match with other ancient board games, plus the more “recent” Game of the Goose” which preserves several features from the Disk.

  2. 2 archaeofox October 20, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Thank for sharing. I just started a PhD in Dublin, looking at woodworking tools in the Eastern Mediterranean, starting in Crete. I will be posting my progress through my own blog. We’ll be going to Zakros too in the summer for a festival we are organising. I will be making several figure of eight shields which will make a nice post! I look forward to reading more from you – S


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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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