Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday Weird: The Phaistos Disc

Hey all! Sorry I've been away from the blog for a bit. It was a combination of the Birthday and going up to the cabin and just general lack of time. But I'm back now, and it's time for a Wednesday Weird!

Today we're talking about the Phaistos Disc.

The disc is a fired clay disc about 5 1/2 inches wide with symbols pressed into each side in a spiral pattern. There are 45 unique symbols, comprising a “message” of 241 symbols. It was discovered in 1908 in Crete, and dates from around 1500BC.




Okay, so kinda cool. But what makes it more interesting is that no one knows what it says. Despite a century of study, the disc remain unreadable.

Scientists think it was meant to be read from the outside spiraling in. There are some other marks that may represent paragraph breaks, and it seems it was edited which all lead to people to believe that it is indeed writing and not just decoration.

And a votive axe found in 1934, the Arkalochori Axe, shares some of the symbols.  But scholars concluded the symbols on the axe were carved by an illiterate and were just strung together for looks.


 
 



But, one of the most interesting aspects of the disc is that it was made using movable type. Meaning, the symbols weren't carved by hand, they were pressed into the clay using stamps. Which means it beats the invention of movable type by close to 1500 years!

Bam! Take that, printing press!
 

11 comments:

Maria Zannini said...

I had never heard of this disc. Very cool. It seems wild that it's still unreadable. There must be a primer somewhere for it.

Glad you enjoyed your time off. We all need that. :)

Welcome back!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We've missed you!
They may never figure out what it says. That old, I'm sure all of the moveable type has turned to dust.

Rena said...

That's funny. We can't read the disc, but we're certain that the guy with the axe couldn't either? That seems a little pretentious of our scientists, don't you think?

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

That's phenomenal! Man, the stories this disc could inspire! Maybe it's a map that leads to some hidden treasure!! Or maybe it was from some lost civilization that was super advanced and they had giant typewriters. Oh the possibilities!!

Southpaw said...

Very cool. I love they were stamped!

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Congratulations on getting some rest!

Natalie Aguirre said...

So amazing to think of what people used to do.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I love it that we've still these ancient mysteries that baffle our modern, technological superior cultures.

Now that scientists have developed a program to recreated dead languages, we may be in a better position to decipher it :)

Jamie @ Mithril Wisdom

DL Hammons said...

It must've fallen through the Stargate!! :)

Teebore said...

I first read "And a votive axe found in 1934" as a VOTING axe, and suddenly voting got a lot more fun...

Kathleen Sisco said...

The most interesting thing is the moveable type. In The Genius of China, the author talks about moveable type in China. The dies used are wonderfully sharp, were they metal and what kind? They are a magnificent achievement by themselves. Sort of like the computer printing we are being blitzed with. Toy around with it and see what comes out. The printing dies in China had a purpose from day one. In Mohenjo Daro there are extraordinary tiles that have beautifully styled miniatures of cattle, etc., and even one of a begging dog with a torc around his neck!!!

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