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.
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)