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Linguist Sheds Light on the Mystery of Crete’s Phaistos Disc

Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos disc front. Disc of fired clay covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols, c.15 cm, c.1700-1600 BC. Minoan art. Heraklion Archaeological Museum Crete. (Photo by: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

A linguist may have unveiled the mystery behind the famed Phaistos Disc, a 15cm fired clay tablet uncovered in 1908 in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age.

Following painstaking efforts together with University of Oxford phonetics professor John Coleman, to decipher Linear A and Linear B script, Dr Gareth Owens believes the disc may be an ancient hymn to Astarte, the goddess of love.

Dr Owens, who is also the coordinator of the Erasmus program for the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Crete, says he believes the Phaistos Disc appears to be a prayer to the mother goddess of the Minoan era; a pregnant divinity may be Astarte, the goddess of fertility, sexuality and war.

Due to the indecipherable Linear A script, the Phaistos Disc has been one of the most puzzling mysteries in archaeology.

“There is no doubt that we’re talking about a religious text. This is clear from a comparison made with other religious words from other inscriptions from the holy mountains of Crete, and other texts. We have words that are exactly the same,” Dr Owens told iefimerida, and adds that he suspects it is a hymn to Astarte, the goddess of love.

Dr Owens, who refers to the disc as the “first Minoan CD-Rom”, believes the perplexing spiraling text on one side of the clay tablet is an ode to Astarte and the other to a mother goddess.

Previous efforts to interpret the 4,000-year-old plate have suggested it was a prayer, a narrative or an adventure story, a call to arms, a board game, an astronomical document or a solar calendar.

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