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Phaestos Disk

The unique clay disc from Phaestos, which dates from the beginning of the New Palace period (about 1600 BC.), is one of the most valuable exhibits in the Museum of Heraklion.

Both sides of the disc carry hieroglyphic signs, which were impressed with seal-stones onto the clay while it was still wet. This is therefore the earliest known example of printing a written text reproduced with the aid of letter stamps.

The inscriptions on both sides of the disc run in a spiral from the edge to the centre. Incised vertical lines separate the words, formed by groups of symbols. There are in all 45 symbols on the disc, each one perhaps representing a syllable. Some of the signs, however, may be ideograms, in other words, signs that do not have a phonetic value, but represent certain ideas. They include human and animal figures and tools of various types.

There can be no doubt that the script and unknown language of the Phaestos disc were the script and language of the Minoans of this period since the same script appears on an inscribed axe from Arkalochori.

Many attempts to decipher the disc have all failed, and the many, often novel, theories put forward about it have all remained unproven. The most probable theory is that which asserts that the inscriptions constitute a religious hymn, as the signs arranged in rhythmical groups, and some groups of signs have been repeated like a refrain. However, until it is deciphered, the Phaestos disc will remain the great enigma of the Iraklion Museum

The disk can be viewed at the Heraklion Museum.


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