The Phaistos Disk is the name given to a flat disk of fired ceramics about 15 centimeters in diameter. Both sides of the disk have been impressed with mysterious symbols. The disk was discovered by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier at the Minoan culture site of Phaistos in 1908.
The disk is a hand-formed, irregularly-shaped flat circle made from a fine-grained clay and intentionally fired. The disk varies in diameter between 15.8 and 16.1 centimeters, and the thickness ranges between 1.6 and 2.1 cm. Symbols have been impressed using some kind of stamp into both sides (A and B), within a spiral-shaped track.
The symbols are similar to glyphs from a variety of languages, including Proto-Ionian, Linear A, Linear B, Hittite, Luwian, Basque, and Indo-European. While many translations have been attempted, the disk does not appear to be in one particular language, but rather a series of unassociated symbols taken from different languages.
What is the Phaistos Disk?
Recently, Jerome M. Eisenberg has collected information about the symbols and what they are related to. He concludes that the Phaistos disk is a fake, created by the excavator for reasons of professional jealousy. Eisenberg's report includes a comprehensive bibliography, for those that wish to dig deeper.
Alternatively, Helene Whittaker is of the opinion that the disk is real, but represents a game board, or perhaps a symbolic game board. She bases her argument on the form of the board and the preservation quality.
The Phaistos Disk is currently on display at the Archaeological Museum at Heraklion, on the island of Crete.
Eisenberg, Jerome M. 2008. The Phaistos Disk: One Hundred Year Old Hoax? Minerva July/August, pp. 9-24.
Whittaker, Helene 2005 Social and Symbolic Aspects of Minoan Writing. European Journal of Archaeology 8(1):29–41.
This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.