The Phaistos disk.

This clay disk was found on the island of Crete and attributed to Anatolian origin although the disk has not(?) been deciphered.

A decipherment solution has been brought to my attention by Mr. Jean Faucounau of Luxumbourg *, which I discuss further on this page.

An enhanced image of Carian script

An enhanced image of some Carian script found in 1997 in Anatolia. This was found along with a Greek bilingual on the same stones.

I have given some arguments against the disk being a predecessor of Mycenaean Greek and against the disk being of Minoan origin. Raising the possibility of Carian origin, can I give any arguments in favor of this? I quote some excerpts from Herodotus, books I and II about the Carians - who they were, what their relationship to the Minoans might have been, where they lived and their rapport with the Ionians. These short excerpts are taken from the Loeb Classical Library bilingual edition published by the Harvard University Press.

1.171 "...Now among these the Carians were a people who had come to the mainland from the islands; for in old time they were islanders, called Leleges and under the rule of Minos, not (as far as I can learn by hearsay) paying him tribute, but manning ships for him when he needed them. Seeing then that Minos had subdued much territory to himself and was victorious in war, this made the Carians too at that time to be very far the most regarded of all nations. Three things they invented in which they were followed by the Greeks: it was the Carians who first taught the wearing of crests in their helmets and devices on their shields, and who first made for their shields holders; till then all who used shields carried them without these holders, and guided them with leathern baldries which they slung round the neck and over the left shoulder..."

Notice the crested head ornament of symbol 02 (a2) and the small round shield of symbol 12 (b2). The stones found by German and Turkish archaeologists in Caria, of southwestern Turkey and reported by a Swiss news agency in early November of 1997 are dated by the Greek inscription to around 350 b.c., less than 100 years after Herodotus' death. He wrote on several occassions of a close rapport between Carians and Ionians, but clearly the bilingual indicates that Carian is not a dialect of Greek, but a separate linguistic entity.

There is also other circumstantial evidence in favor of a Carian-Lycian origin (Caria and Lycia having been adjacent to each other on the mainland of Asia Minor, directly across from the island of Rhodes). Another of the un-Minoan signs on the disk is number c4, the house built on piles. This has been observed to resemble houses built in Lycia at a later time. But the circumstantial evidence that I suggest is that hieroglyphics on Hittite monuments is a dialect of Luwian, and Luwian is the predecessor of the Lycian language of the classical period. So the greatest linguistic similarity that is contemporary with 1700 B.C. are Hittite hieroglyphics, which in fact are often a Luwian dialect.

These notes last updated on June 21, 1999.

I am adding some notes to this page today, September 24, 1999, as some very interesting information has been brought to my attention by Mr. Jean Faucounau of Luxumbourg. Mr Faucounau has produced a decipherment solution for the Phaistos Disk using statistical methods, the time honored and proven manner of linguistic decipherment used by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick in the decipherment of Linear B. Mr. Faucounau states that his findings were first published as early as 1975. (When I have more information on the availability of his publications, which are in French, I will include that information on this page as a footnote *.) In a correspondence to me, he has suggested that his findings and proposed solution to the decipherment of the clay disk found at the palace at Phaistos and dated to about 1700 B.C. indicate a language context that he describes as 'proto-Ionian.' It is this concept which I find very interesting, independent of what the subject content of the disk may prove to be. I include these new notes on this page rather than at the beginning of the Phaistos material on this website because the thread which I have followed, without any predisposition as to where it should lead, has pointed strongly at an Anatolian coastal location for the language origin. In this respect I draw attention to page 11, figure 2, of The Decipherment of Linear B, by John Chadwick. This illustration is a map of Greek dialects, giving a very good picture of the locations of Ionic, Doric and Arcadian dialects. Herodotus writes in Ionic Greek, and I quote from the introduction of the Loeb edition:

The assertion by Mr. Faucounau that the language of the disk is proto- Ionic, being primarily an Anatolian coastal and island language, fits the picture very well which I have been describing. Also, any connection with Luwian hieoglyphics points to an Indo-European language, which would be the case for proto-Ionic.

My last observation at the moment, is something which I have found some time ago, and that concerns the ceramic technology of the disk, a matter of importance because this is a fired ceramic and, consequently, very differently conceived in its creation from the later instances of Linear A and Linear B which are scripts composed on unfired, unglazed clay tablets. It has been often been noted that the Phaistos Disk is an object which was created with forethought and planning because it is glazed and fired ceramic with pre-made stamps used to imprint the symbols. There seem to be no prototypes for this object and no other examples have been found. It is not exactly the case that there are no prototypes to this glazed and fired ceramic disk, imprinted with stamping devices. While it is true that there are no other such linguistic objects known to us, there is a long prior history of ceramic objects created with a very similar, if not indentical technique. These would be the very well known Cycladic "frying pans," dating from as early as 2400 B.C. It is not clear that these were actually used as frying pans, but they are so called because of their resemblance to the implement which we know. In fact, there is not a good understanding what purpose they may have served. What is clear is that they are disk shaped, fired and glazed ceramic objects which have repeated patterns stamped upon their surface. In fact, one of the often repeated patterns is a spiral, the very design used in organizing the symbols on the Phaistos Disk. My point being, that a well established and widely known type of ceramic in the Cyclades and east Greek colonies has predated the disk found at Phaistos by 700 years and could easily have been used as a ready made model to imprint stamped hieroglyphics.

This page has been updated on September 28, 1999.

Herodotus, Book II, 112-114:

If the Proto-Ionian theory be correct, then the language spoken by Paris would not be more disimilar from that spoken by Helen than the language of Sappho differs from Herodotus, Aeolic and Ionic, both also derivatives of a Proto-Ionian parent.

* Decipherment of the Phaistos Disk: Ref : 'Le déchiffrement du disque de Phaistos. Preuves et conséquences' by Jean Faucounau. Edit. L'HARMATTAN 5 rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique , F-75005 Paris , France.

Other related monographs by Mr. Faucounau include:

A chart of the pictograms.

See a larger version of side A.
Side B enlarged.

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