The mystery of the Phaistos Disk has been “solved by 99 percent” according to linguist and archaeologist Gareth Owens. If what the scientists claims is true, humankind could be on the precipice of understanding just who these Minoans were.
The Phaistos Disc is an enigma, an circular clay disc covered with inscribed symbols on both sides that are unlike any signs in any writing system known. Discovered in the ancient Minoan city of Phaistos in Southern Crete in 1908, the object is thought to been created somewhere around 1700 BC. As for Owens and his quest to decipher the meaning of the inscriptions on the object, the archaeologist has spent the better part of his life in the quest for understanding the cryptic object. In a recent interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Owens was quick to point out the difference between deciphering and reading such glyphs, and actually understanding the meaning behind the symbols/sounds associated. The linguest told reporters:
“We are reading the Phaistos disc with the vocal values of Linear B and with the help of comparative linguistics, ie comparing with other relative languages from the Indo-European language family. Reading something, however, does not mean understanding.”
For over 30 years Owens has worked to solve this piece of the Minoan puzzle. A few years back his work revealed that the goddess of love, the Minoan Astarte was key for unlocking the mystery of the Phaistos Disk. Owens altered his original theories about the focus of the disc to conclude the Phaistos Disc is a hymn for Astarte.
This TEDx Heraklion talk by Owens from 2014 tells us much about the scientist’s dedication to solving the riddle of the disk, but it also reveals the special and almost mythical reputation and importance of Crete.
For those unfamiliar with the Phaistos Disc, the object is of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos near the southern coast of Crete. The disc dates to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (second millennium B.C.). The disk is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology.
Returning to Dr. Owens, he is scheduled to speak today in a lecture entitled “The Voice of the Phaistos Disk” he will give at the National Hellenic Research Foundation. Owens claims that Linear A, the ancient language of the Minoans, is not a dead language as many experts have claimed. Owens says his research has led to understanding the “sounds” recording on the disc, which can eventually help researchers decipher Linear A. This report from Archaeology Wiki reveals more of Owen’s theories and research. The video trailer below offers up what may be the very first (to my recollection) spoken Minoan language uttered since the demise of that ancient civilization.
Minoan Crete constitutes the first literate civilization of Europe and the beginning of European recorded history. In 1878, Minos Kalokairinos carried out pioneering excavations in the West Wing of the Palace of Knossos and discovered the first Linear B tablet. In the first month of excavations at Knossos in 1900, Arthur Evans discovered 3 Bronze Age Scripts, Minoan “Cretan Hieroglyphic” and Linear A, and Mycenaean Linear B, thus bringing Minoan and Mycenaean Crete into the historical period.