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Phaistos disk

  © TechPark , 2004

Phaistos disk

There is rectifying archaeological artifact from Crete. It is called the Phaistos Disc and is a small, baked clay disc about five inches in diameter. On the surface of each side of the disc there are incised spirals and within these are groups of hieroglyphic type characters which have never been interpreted. The Phaistos Disc is thought to date to about 1700BC. It is presently in the Heraklion Museum in Crete.

People have tried for decades to try and unravel the mystery of the Phasitos Disc but this has proved to be impossible for several reasons. There are very few examples of this sort of hieroglyphic script on Crete and since it never appears with any comparable text, there just are not enough examples for cross-referencing. Also there is no knowledge of the language spoken on Crete in Minoan times.

Each side of the Phaistos Disc contains an incised spiral. Within the whorls of these spirals are groups of hieroglyphs, pressed into the clay with pre-made tools. The groups are separated by incised lines crossing the spiral and there are anything between 2 and 8 glyphs per group. Side A of the Disc contains 123 glyphs within 31 groups, whilst side B has 119 glyphs within 30 groups. Many of the glyphs are repeated, some on both side A and side B of the Disc.

The Minoan Calendar

The Phaistos Disc and its groups of hieroglyphics was nothing more or less than a second calendar. This ran on periods of 123 days and was designed to allow the ritual year of 366 days to be corrected. Such a move is very important to any farming culture, so that planting and harvesting dates do not slip backwards of forwards throughout the year. Such a calendar can also be translated in Geometrical terms, and I deal with this fact on the Geometry page.

The simple procedure for rectifying the calendar was for the Minoans to remove 1 day from the 366 day calendar once every 492 days. This is four cycles of the 123 day run of the second calendar. The reason that 123 days were used in the first place is explained in the section on Astronomy. But as far as the basic calendar is concerned the simple expedient of removing 1 day every 492 days would mean that the calendar would remain accurate with the actual Earth year (365.2564 days) for up to 3,700 years, without any other correction but this being necessary.

The year was almost certainly split into 12 months, with the months being of 30 and 31 days alternately. This matched the way the day was measured.

About the Astronomy

Two professors from Glasgow University, Ovenden and Roy, have demonstrated why the zodiac as we more or less think of it today, must have originated in Crete. The zodiac is a belt of stars that runs around the Earth and within which all the planets, including the Sun and the Moon can be seen to pass. The zodiac has been historically split into twelve sections, and these are now known to us as the zodiac. This twelve fold split is still used as a reference point to astronomers today. There are many short-cuts to achieving astounding results and these are discussed in The Bronze Age Computer Disc. Such a capability would have been very important to the Minoans, because it is the starting point of really beginning to understand how the solar system functions. The true position of the Sun within the zodiac is one of the main starting points for being able to track the orbital periods and characteristics of all the other planets.

The Minoans divided up the great circle of the heavens in such a way as to allow each zodiac sign to represent either 30 or 31 degrees of the great circle. Thus, in their modified system of calendar reckoning, the Sun could be seen to move exactly 1 degree of arc across the heavens each day. In fact any calendar system has to be wrong, because there are not an even number of days in the year, but the ingenious Minoan system made such a thing possible. Using a version of the Phaistos Disc it was possible for the Minoan astronomers to know the EXACT position of the Sun within the zodiac at any time of any day - ever.

The Integrated System

The advantage of the mathematical system used on Crete was that it could deal with astronomy, geometry, and world measurement, and all using the same number bases. Thus, time, space and distance were all measured in the same way.

The result was a system that was very simple to use, and which could be passed on by verbal means, retained through training and memory and probably administered by a priesthood, specifically dedicated to the process.

The Geometry

It now became possible to work out just how accurately the Minoans had been able to split the great circle of the heavens. Their circle contained 366 degrees. Each degree was further split into 60 smaller units, which we would call minutes, and each minute was split again into 6 smaller units, which we might call seconds.

However, with naked eye astronomy, even a degree of arc is very small, so what real use could these people have had for minutes or even seconds of arc. It was the Earth upon which they lived that they were trying to measure accurately. One second of the heavens might be extremely small, but in terms of the Earth's circumference, it is in excess of 300 metres.

There were also very practical reasons for the existence of the system, not least of all the advantages offered in terms of navigation. The Minoans were excellent sailors and are known to have have travelled much further from home than any other comparable culture of the period.

Measuring the Earth

The implications of the Minoan geometry was that they must have used their advanced system to accurately measure the Earth.

The Megalithic Yard had been rediscovered by Professor Alexandar Thom, late Emeritus Professor of Engineering at Oxford University. Across a lifetime Professor Thom had carefully measured as many of the megalithic monuments of Britain and France as he could. He discovered that practically all of them had been built using one common linear measurement. This he declared to be 82.96656 centimetres in length. He called in the Megalithic Yard.

This measurement fitted the Minoan geometry perfectly, and it led us to the conclusion that the Minoans had known the circumference of the Earth every bit as accurately as we do today. All the details relating to this can be found in The Bronze Age Computer Disc.

It was discovered that the Minoans had used a linear measurement of their own, probably only for domestic architecture. This was 30.36 centimetres in length and the man who discovered it, an American professor by the name of J Walter Graham, called it the Minoan Foot. There is a close and quite incredible comparison between the Megalithic Yard and the Minoan Foot because 366 Megalithic Yards is the same as 1,000 Minoan Feet. This cannot be a coincidence - the two cultures must have been closely affiliated.

Butler, A. The Bronze Age Computer Disc // Foulsham & Co Ltd, March 1999