Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weird Wednesday - Phaistos Disc and Rongorongo

Phaistos Disc - Side A
(click to supersize)
For some reason, I am fascinated by mysterious, undeciphered writing (check out Weird Wednesday - The Voynich Manuscript.) Today, we have not one, but two good mysteries from the Mythik Story Idea List And Weird Things File :)

The Phaistos Disc is, oddly enough, an approximately 3600 year old disc-shaped clay artifact discovered in Crete in 1908. Although the dating is imprecise, and some archeologists do think it is a hoax, it is generally accepted by the scientific community as the real deal.

It has symbols or "signs" in a spiral pattern on both sides. There are 45 unique signs that make up its "alphabet," and there are a total of 241 "tokens" made up of the signs. Many of the signs seem to represent people, faces, and objects such as weapons and tools. The signs have been compared to the symbols in Linear A and Anatolian and even Egyptian Hieroglyphics. There is even a theory that it may be the result of the world's first printing press. But so far, nobody has been able to come up with a conclusive translation.

Phaistos Disc - Side B
What do you think? Is it a recipe? A board game? The headpiece to the Staff of Ra?
Or perhaps an Anti-Gravity Pyramid Builder Instruction Manual?
That doesn't mean everybody and their dog hasn't attempted to decipher it, though. So go ahead, get out your handy Indiana Jones Ancient Language Decoder Book and give it a shot. Let me know what you come up with :)

If you get stuck with the Phaistos Disc, you can always try your hand at decoding Rongorongo. This mysterious script comes from the equally mysterious Easter Island. It first became known in the late 19th century, but by then it seems anybody who knew how to read it had died off (or been killed.)
To make matters worse, the pieces of wood containing the writing were often used as firewood or used to wind fishing lines. If you want to take a crack at reading it, it is theorized that you read from left to right, beginning at the bottom, then rotate it 180 degrees and continue the next line.

Some of the characters appear to be people and animals, and the writing was engraved with a shark's tooth. Nobody knows for sure how to read it, of course, but one surviving fragment is believed to be a lunar calendar.

What do you think?


  1. This stuff fascinates me as well! My fave post of the day so far - and now I need to go do some research.

  2. Thanks, Li! I hope you let me know what you find out :)

  3. I love ancient history stuff. Thanks for sharing. I was researching Sumerian writings for my first novel and got so into it, I actually ordered these text books to start teaching myself how to read & write cunieform. I didn't get real far yet. :)

  4. Wow, Sumerian, that is amazing! I would think that must be extremely difficult.

  5. It seems as though the consensus among scholars is that the Rongorongo samples are probably chants, and since the general population was probably illiterate, they might be religious chants. Heyerdahl wrote an essay on rongorongo THE CONCEPT OF RONGORONGO
    Kon-Tiki Museum, 1965, v. 2, pp. 345-385, which included info on 2 researchers who interviewed elderly natives in 1886. They could not translate it figure by figure but affirmed that they were chants.

    There are others, however, who posit that it is writing by outer space aliens or natives trying to convey ideas about aliens. That's as far as I've gotten :-)

  6. Cool stuff, Jon! This sort of thing makes for great writing prompts. Not sure where you're finding it, but keep passing it on!

  7. @Li - hmm, as much as I hate to say it, I'm betting on the chants theory rather than aliens ;)

    @Nicholas - Thanks! Heh, you never know what wacky stuff might turn up around here ;)

  8. An actions report of a manager of the ancient Phaistos commercial center

    The famous Phaistos Disc is a printed, per paragraph, synoptic report of a manager actions from the Phaistos commercial center. The spirals, for technical reasons, are starting with guide the edge of the disc, from the periphery to the center, and the inscription, again for technical reasons, begins reversely.
    The Phaistos Disk, the Column from Abydos, the Rosetta’s Stone, the plate from Egkomi, the plate from the Athena's sanctuary of the Idalion and the plate of Kortona are some written reports or publications current accounting's and regulatory acts for the king's or administration's or municipality's informing.!/view.aspx?cid=E39B50D7D9EA3235&resid=E39B50D7D9EA3235%21123&app=WordPdf

  9. Translate.

  10. Read newest for Human Written Word!
    When talking about the Human Language we mean the Universal Language, which we will discover and, studying, we will approach through dialects of nations and peoples.