Readers who know German may be interested in a short piece on the Phaistos Disc in Süddeutsche Zeitung today, for which I gave a brief interview. You can read it in full HERE.

(If you don’t read German and want to know more, don’t worry – the Wikipedia page on the Phaistos Disc is quite neutral and can give a lot of the basics about the object.)


The Phaistos Disc is one of the most controversial inscriptions from ancient Crete – in fact, debate continues as to whether it is a genuine artefact, and, even if it is genuine, whether it is an inscription at all! There have also been a lot of unconvincing ‘decipherments’ of the writing on the Disc, which makes it all the more notorious in scholarship. What I argued in the interview for the German article is that we simply do not have enough of it to attempt anything so ambitious as a decipherment.


Even so, I’m quite fond of the Phaistos Disc (in fact, the above picture is of my reproduction Phaistos Disc, which lives in the CREWS office, shown here with a Phaistos Discuit leaning against it). Despite being quite unlike any other inscribed object surviving from ancient Crete, a few of its signs do have possible cognates in Linear A and in the intriguing Arkalochori Axe (another one-of-a-kind object with an impenetrable short inscription). So although there remain a lot of mysteries surrounding this object, it is not completely isolated and we have some hint that its script, if it was ever a well-developed or coherent system, played some role in the development of writing in Crete.


Phaistos Discuits!

And while we may deliberate over the Phaistos Disc’s authenticity, I can tell you that it makes a very good cookie template – read more in Philip’s Phaistos Discuits post from May.


~ Pippa Steele (Principal Investigator of the CREWS project)

Pippa Steele

2 thoughts on “Back to the Phaistos Disc

    1. It is a very tempting object, isn’t it? It’s such a shame that there is so little to analyse, because as it is, observation of patterns (in both signs and sign groups) can only take us so far, and bridging the gap between one tempting piece of what must once have been a larger jigsaw puzzle (we must hope!), and something else where our knowledge is on a surer footing, is rather daunting.

      I hope your studies in Linear B are going well!


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