in our e-book
by H. Peter Aleff
Volume 1: its siblings Senet and Snake Game,
and its surviving sequel the Royal Game of the Goose
Those experts may well be right for their field, but nothing says the Disk is a text or inscription. Only this unwarranted assumption makes it appear isolated. In modern terms, those looking for a text applied the wrong operating system for retrieving the information encoded on the Disk, or even for recognizing its existence.
Some of the symbols on the Disk, such as the bough or the mace or the rosette, were familiar to many people around the ancient Levant and had specific meanings in the intercultural koine or lingua franca of symbolic shorthand that people back then shared more widely than languages or even religions.
We can plug in those meanings for certain pictographs on the Disk, and derive others from several clear parallels on ancient gameboards which function here as equivalents of the Rosetta Stone. You will then find that these signs work seamlessly together without your having to know much about the Disk-maker’s language -- or script, if any.
When you use that approach, instead of treating the Disk as a "text", the groupings of signs on it become user-friendly and easily intelligible. They suddenly stir to life and tell a coherent as well as externally verified and supported story. Moreover, that story gives the clearest and most concise capsule description of the ancient Eastern Mediterranean cosmology which has come to light so far, finally freed from the clay that held it so long.
It shows us its maker’s cosmos and pantheon which resemble those of ancient Egypt but differ in telltale details and add new background to some events in the Bible. It also assembles many previously separate fragments of myths into a unified whole and so opens a new window on many long-lived beliefs from the ancient Near Eastern world, including some that survive in major modern religions.
That old Disk even includes an animated tutorial on how this world worked. When gamepieces perform the literally interactive story on its fields, their motions become more eloquent than mere text, and they let you follow live the myths it illustrates. But unlike modern computer disks, that ancient clay Disk needs no electricity, it gives you no error messages, and it does not crash.
2. The Disk and ancient gameboards
2.1. Stamped decorations on gameboards
The invention of this technology in the West is usually ascribed to Johannes Gutenberg (1397 to 1468), so it appears here some three thousand years ahead of its time, about as much out of place as a wristwatch would be on a Ramesside mummy.
However, the anachronism applies only to the use of stamps for reproducing written texts, other than the few signs that fit on individual seals, and it disappears when we compare the stamping on the Disk with the decoration methods used on other objects, particularly gameboards.
For instance, some of the fields on boards for the ancient Egyptian game Senet were usually identified and/or embellished with signs. On some of the Senet boards made from faience, these signs were impressed into the clay-like soft mass before firing, and they were impressed there with stamps18.
In other words, as unusual as the stamping on the Phaistos Disk may have been for imprinting a text, stamping was in no way exceptional for impressing signs on gameboards.
So, if the Disk was not a text but happened to be a gameboard, it would be no longer the equivalent of that wristwatch under mummy bandages. It would then be as much in tune with its time as any of the ingenious shadow clocks occasionally found in tombs from back then.
This solution would also bear out those researchers who speculated from time to time that the Disk might have something to do with some spiral game19.
2.2. Eight-leaved rosettes on gameboards
Another clue that also points in the gameboard direction comes from the eight-leaved rosette which occurs four times on the Disk. That sign is frequently found on ancient gameboards, as illustrated by the examples below.
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