A funny thing happened at the library in 1992. I came across a picture of the Phaistos Disk
in a book, and above the disk in large letters was written, "Who can read the Phaistos Disk?" Discovered a hundred years ago,
it had since that time remained archaeology's most famous undeciphered artifact. Looking closely at the disk, just in case I
happened to be the person who could "read it," I was amazed to see right away two things that I recognized.
On the Phaistos Disk I saw this pictograph
(left) and it reminded me of the ones I had seen on a tile mosaic entitled Maze of Daedalus,
found on a barn floor in Austria in 1815 and dated about 4 C.E. (above) Also on the tile mosaic are side-by-side
disks (above, left and right) that are similar to the Phaistos Disk images when both sides of it are placed
side by side.
These similarities may be
only coincidence, but there are other similarities as well. Both appear to be mazes; Maze of Daedalus is a square maze and Phaistos Disk
is a round maze, and both originate in Minoan Crete, one as legend and the other as artifact. (Left, Minoan coin with
square maze and English alphabet.)
The Phaistos Disk, located (in the Herakleion Museum) but not explained, is probably the most famous maze in the world
except for the Maze of Daedalus, explained but not located. In the Phaistos Disk we have the artifact but not the narrative. In the
Maze of Daedalus we have the narrative but not the artifact. In the Maze of Daedalus narrative, the Greek hero Theseus was put into
the maze and then challenged to find his way back out under pressure of being eaten by the Minotaur. Fortunately for him, the Minotaur's
half-sister Ariadne helped him by leaving a thread for him to follow out of the maze after he killed the Minotaur.
The idea of the thread is visible in the Phaistos Disk solution (right, pictographs removed, and below) as the winding spiral that covers both sides of the disk and can be followed from center to center like a thread.
As I sat in the library that day I wondered, "Did Daedalus create the Phaistos Disk, and is the disk the Maze of Daedalus?"
It seems possible to me that something found as an artifact today could be so remarkable when it was created that an entire mythology could
grow up around it and endure for thousands of years. The mythology could have passed down to us while the artifact that engendered it was lost.
If the artifact was later found, then it might be possible to connect it to the ancient legend surrounding it. And as it involves Daedalus,
the world's greatest inventor, then it could be possible the Phaistos Disk was his most famous invention from which his legend grew.
DAEDALUS, CUNNING ARTIFICER
Daedalus lived in a culture that rose from a neolithic condition via technology with the smelting of iron, the importation of
metals, the use of bronze and the development of boats and ships that sailed all over the Mediterranean. They apparently traded with various
countries, including Egypt where murals have been discovered recently that depict the Minoans bringing gifts to the pharaoh. The Minoan
culture was replete with brilliant artisans.
Was Daedalus the creator of the Phaistos Disk, or was Daedalus the collective name of the brilliant Bronze Age artisans who
lived and worked back then? Perhaps Daedalus means Inspiration. They were so incredibly creative that it makes me wonder if Crete is the
root word for create. They created palaces, designed mazes, made bronze armor and weapons, painted beautiful murals, made exquisite pottery,
designed drainage systems, built trading ships, paved their roads with shells and rocks and became advanced astronomers. They were very
artistically advanced, with the creation of ceramics and carved ivory, tile mosaics and mazes, and rudimentary hieroglyphic writing.
And they had a fascination with bulls. Not just at Knossos, where the palace roof
tops were trimmed in bull's horns and the walls display images of bull sports, but also other places like Mallia, where the palace is designed
like the head of a bull (left). And then, of course, there is the legend of the Minotaur, a half-bull, half-human creature
contained by Daedalus inside the famous maze.
As I began my quest for Daedalus and his maze and set my sails for a journey into the past, I tried to heed the advice of
Will Durant, who said of Minoan Crete in his The Life of Greece:
If now we try to restore this buried culture from the relics that remain— playing Cuvier to the scattered bones
of Crete—let us remember that we are engaging upon a hazardous kind of historical television, in which imagination must supply the living
continuity in the gaps of static and fragmentary material artificially moving but long since dead. Crete will remain inwardly unknown
until its secretive tablets find their Champollion.
But no matter
how much hazardous historical television we engage upon, will we ever understand how a civilization can perceive something special about a dog
scratching its fleas? (Left, Phaistos Disk pictograph; Below, Minoan cylinder seals of dogs scratching)
Champollion, who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, would not have been successful with the Phaistos Disk had he taken this cautious approach, and I won't do it either. I will just try not to overlay the ideas of my civilization onto theirs, and good luck with that!
Another mystery surrounding the disk is how it was made. Perhaps Daedalus means "cunning artificer" because he could invent not just the thing itself but the way to
make it, as well. Daedalus was so clever that he is said to have invented images. He was the Leonardo da Vinci of his day and even more so.
Daedalus was inventing during the Mediterranean Bronze Age when, from our perspective, so many inventions seem possible. Everything was
new then, relative to da Vinci's day. For Daedalus it must have been truly a world of opportunities, a wide-open vista of possibilities
for the inventor.
Daedalus (=cunning artificer) was a sort of personified summary of mechanical skill. (H.G. Wells)
It is difficult, however, when
reading all the mythology and legends associated with Daedalus, to state exactly what he invented. A list of his inventions begins with a lurid tale that
Greek adults perhaps told in saunas to pass the time. Poseidon, god of the sea and special god of Plato's Atlantis, presented King Minos
with a white bull and Queen Pasiphae (Persephone) with a problem, which Daedalus solved. The king's wife is supposed to have lusted
after the bull! Pasiphae asked Daedalus, the palace architect, to design a bed (above, left?; Minoan palanquin, right))
for the mating to take place. Daedalus complied and the result of the mating was the Minotaur, half-bull, half-human (right).
Daedalus also invented the maze in which
innocent young Greeks were fed to the Minotaur wherein they wandered lost until eaten. In another variation of the purpose of his maze,
he built it for King Minos of Crete in order to contain the Minotaur, who was the queen's son. He also is credited with inventing attachable
feathered wings, held together with strings and wax, so that humans could fly (pictograph left). With these wings he
and his son Icarus escaped his own inescapable maze by flying out of it. When Icarus flew too high, the sun melted the wax.
(Right, Minoan Coin with Minotaur and English alphabet)
Centuries passed and the legendary status of Daedalus the inventor grew. The stories surrounding him became unrelated
to his inventions, but beyond inventing a maze, a bedchamber, wings and images, Daedalus cannot be said to have invented anything that
would justify his extraordinary status as the world's greatest inventor. The invention of images, however, would certainly qualify this
inventor for legendary status, but it seems his reputation rests on his most famous invention, the Maze of Daedalus, which is lost in time.
We have only mythology to tell us what his maze was and what its purpose was, but mythology is storytelling of the highest order and not
recorded history at all. We just know he invented an incredible maze in Crete during a period of time before written history.
Had he invented a way of recording a history of his time, so that he could record some of the events and some of his inventions,
that would be very helpful, but he also would have to invent a way to do it and a way to preserve it for thousands of years. If he was truly
worthy of his legendary status as inventor, he would have done that. This cunning artificer could invent not just the thing itself but the way to
make it, as well. The Phaistos Disk could be his greatest invention, the one for which he is best known and which records his other inventions
including how he made it and why he is credited with inventing images.
If the Phaistos Disk is the Maze of Daedalus, then the great inventor deserves his star status and more because the disk may
record his inventions that seem now lost to us. They included images, telescopes, binoculars, textbooks in clay, calendars, a printing press, a kiln, mazes, an historical record,
geometries, constellations, world-disks, and even a new world-view of an old world. And on this disk invention he may have recorded the second
most cataclysmic event in the last 5,000 years, the Minoan eruption and tsunami. He may also have realized spatial relativity and created an
object to demonstrate it (left). If so, it has taken nearly 4,000 years for his inventions and ideas to become known because that is about how long
the Phaistos Disk was lost.
The Phaistos Disk may not be the Maze of Daedalus, but nothing will ever come as close to it as this disk. I am also encouraged
to embrace this theory because it is so much easier to talk about the Phaistos Disk if we allow it to be the Maze of Daedalus and if we interpret
the mythology of Daedalus literally and allow that he actually lived in Minoan Crete.
Read my fictional account of Daedalus' participation in the Phaistos Disk and the creation of the Maze of Daedalus
The tile mosaic (top of page) portrays the maze and the ancient Minoan
legend of Theseus and the Minotaur by the use of continuous representation. This ancient narrative device (supposed to have originated in Mesopotamia)
is used by artists to tell a story with their art by the depiction of successive scenes within a single composition.
According to the ancient story, the maze was inescapable, full of paths leading nowhere and very dangerous. The only way to
escape the maze was to put on wings and fly out of it. At the center of this tile mosaic is the Maze of Daedalus, which is also a truncated
pyramid and a pyramid with a interior view. Inside the pyramid and in the center of the maze, Theseus is battling the Minotaur.
According to mythology, Theseus (Iasius) was one of the mythical
Argonauts, along with two other Curetes (Cretans), Heracles and Idas. They were three of the original five divine Curetes, including Paeonaeus
and Epimedes, who established the civilization of Crete. They were called Minyae, descendants of King Minyas, from which the word Minos, as in
King Minos, may be derived. (Minoan is the name given the civilization by excavator Sir Arthur Evans.)
With their captain Jason (Aeson) and 43 (or so) other Argonauts, Theseus/Iasius pursued the Golden Fleece (above left)
belonging to the ram (second left) that had been sacrificed to Zeus. (Right, Minoan Bead-seal showing Theseus
battling the Minotaur)
Theseus also appears on the tile
mosiac in the scene, top of page, left, in the couple who are most likely Theseus and Ariadne and who are turning a wheel. To the right on the mosaic is Ariadne,
perhaps sitting and waiting for Theseus to finish his epic battle. Left is my concept of where she might be sitting, on the bottom steps of the
stairs leading to the Royal Apartments in the Palace of Knossos. Below the palace was a labyrinthine plumbing system that many speculate was the
origin for the Maze of Daedalus myth.
Above the pyramid on the mosaic, they are disembarking from a ship, apparently after the battle has ended and they have left
Crete together. The ship may also be the constellation Argo, the boat used by Theseus/Iasius and Jason/Aeson to sail the heaven-ocean in
pursuit of the Golden Fleece. In wordplay, when you combine these two names - Jason and Iasius - you get Jasius, which is
nearly Jesus, son of god or Ja's son (Jason), Jah being the familiar form of Jehovah. This designates them both as immortals.
(What was the Minoan name for god?)
Perhaps the idea portrayed in the tile mosaic is that Theseus/Iasius left the Argo long enough to meet Ariadne and battle the
Minotaur, and his defeat of this bull-being caused the Minoan civilization to blossom and flourish. Not so easy to explain as this Maze of
Daedalus is the Phaistos Disk.
PALACE OF KNOSSOS
In one popular interpretation of the Maze of Daedalus legend, the maze was thought to be the famous labyrinthine palace at
Knossos that was as big as Buckingham Palace, had 700 rooms and covered 6-1/2 acres. (My tracing, artist unknown) |
The Palace of
Knossos was designed around the continuous activities of the Central Court, with the western facade as the focus (right).
Beneath the palace where the Minotaur was supposed to live, in the depths of the labyrinth and roaming a subterranean, labyrinthine plumbing and
drainage system, excavators discovered water channels and conduits for heavy rainfall and huge drains large enough to stand in and walk upright.
The palace was supplied with running water and flushing toilets, the result of the work of the brilliant hydraulic engineers who built this elaborate
plumbing system, another invention of Daedalus perhaps, unique in the Bronze Age. |
Who Created It?
In the Maze of Daedalus legend,
the Minotaur was fed young Greeks, war tribute paid to King Minos by the king of Greece. The Greeks were put in the maze, where they wandered hopelessly
lost until the Minotaur found them and ate them. One of the Greeks the Minotaur was set to eat was Theseus, the son of the king of Greece, who sailed
to Crete as a member of a sacrificial group but who planned to eliminate the Minotaur. Theseus, the greatest hero of Greece, enlisted the help of Ariadne,
King Minos' daughter and the Minotaur's stepsister, to lead him into the maze. She in turn consulted Daedalus, that mysterious inventor so active
behind these scenes. Daedalus advised Ariadne to take a ball of thread, now known as Ariadne's Thread of Love, to unwind inside the maze for
Theseus to follow back out. (Minoans entering Palace of Knossos)
The walls of Knossos are often covered in spirals like a labyrinth,
the word originating as Labrys and also meaning "axe." (left and below) Accompanying these spirals are the
mysterious "Figure 8 Shields." (down below) With the round maze of the Phaistos Disk in mind, the design seems
familiar. (Below, Minoan ceiling design with double axes)
It would appear that before Zeus-Dionysus was depicted in human shape he was worshipped through his symbols
or attributes. Another symbol of the god was the 8-form shield. (Mackenzie)
By these correspondences, if Zeus, or
Father God, is symbolized by the figure 8 shields, then the Phaistos Disk, a kind of fold-out figure 8 shield, is intended to symbolize God.
This would mean the entire universe or disk of the world was conceived of by the astronomer-priests, at least, as God (later Zeus).
They may have conluded that God (Zeus) is so big that it takes something the size of a universe to express Him. They may have also
believed the universe and everything in it to be particle-ized parts of God, so that the disk might be a depiction of the first science involving particle metaphysics. Or perhaps they simply had the idea that the world is the shield the god is holding (left),
and everything on the disk/shield, all the pictographs, represent the composition and inhabitants of the world.
DAEDALUS INVENTS IMAGES
In a modern analogy about the spirit of geometry, and how Daedalus might have invented images, let us pretend that the
play "Cinderella" is being produced on a stage constructed by plane geometry, who is like the kind mother (left) of the
wicked stepmother of Cinderella. She does not scold or complain or judge, she never withdraws her support no matter how wicked the stepmother becomes,
and, out of generosity and a desire to support creativity, she always gives the stepmother a stage on which to be as wicked as she likes to her stepgranddaughter.
As the drama unfolds, Cinderella's
friends put curses on the stepmother while Cinderella prays for help and protection. But the kind grandmother is not affected at all by these
curses or prayers, except to appear as an apparition to Cinderella and comfort her. The kind grandmother just figures this whole thing will
straighten itself out somehow as long as she gives it her support. It may not be the best of plays but at least it is something. Geometry has been
around long enough to know that the play changes, that there is a lot of role reversal going on, and so the play is the thing.
The kind grandmother might like to wait in the wings invisibly. She does not seek the spotlight, but we can convince her to
take the stage anyway so we can see the geometrical arrangements contained by her stage. On the Phaistos Disk we can find the geometry by
connecting matching pictographs with lines like connect-the-dots or like connecting points with lines as in geometry. And suddenly, Daedalus
Connect with lines the four
identical hand (Dactyl) signs on side 2 of the disk to reveal the kind grandmother's pointy hat, a cone that was there the whole time.
(Below, left, my exact tracings of the disk, drop shadow and terra cotta color added.)
Connect these 5 Minyae signs on
side 2 to see the kind grandmother has been overeating just a bit and is developing a bulge. (below, second left)
Connect these 4 telescope signs on side 2 to
reveal the reason why. She has been eating too many of her tasty apple tarts. (below, third left)
Connect these 5 Argo signs on side 2 to
reveal exercise as the solution to weight gain. Instead of taking the boat to the mailbox to get her mail, she should just swim.
Well if she does not do something soon, she will become as big as a house (left), and the universe will experience a
Big Bang and we will have to start over again.
Thus, Daedalus invents images!!!
When I studied this whirling chaos on the disk and searched for meaning, I found an ancient world and a universe of knowledge.
The disk seems to be a Minoan wave spiral (left) and Figure 8 Shield on which is depicted the Aegean world of Minoan Crete,
including a cave, a boat, a pyramid, a star, planets, a constellation, geometry, math, calendars, and everyday life in Crete that mirrors the
stars above. We reveal them on the disk just as we revealed the kind grandmother, by connecting matching pictographs with lines.
This is also how the constellations are revealed. We know they are only stars, but to the people of the Aegean world, the stars and planets
were the eyes of the gods watching over them. See the biggest eye of all, the big star Sirius, eye of the great goddess Rhea.
Page 1 - Antique Science of Containment |
Many Hidden Patterns
Page 2 - The Tablet