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
3.1.2. The Philistine connection with the Disk
Samson is also connected with the rayed-hair-head on the Disk in other ways. He was born into the tribe of Dan which "dwelt by the ships" (Judges 5:17) and has been connected with the "Denyen", one of the "sea people" groups that came with the Philistines54. From the angelic announcement of his conception on (Judges 13:5), his entire life was interwoven with the Philistines. He married or bedded three of their daughters and slew over four thousand of their men.
These in-laws and neighbors of Samson, in turn, identified themselves with the owner of that rayed head to the point of making its characteristic hairdo their trademark headgear. This headgear proclaims that they were not at all the prosaic dullards and unenlightened "Children of Darkness" for which our dictionaries still misuse their name55. By wearing their "fluted crown" helmets, their warriors specifically styled themselves as the followers and spiritual descendants of that ray-haired head, and thus as "Children of the Sun".
No one can pinpoint exactly who the Philistines were, but there are many clues to the general area from where they came. Although some scholars propose their raiding parties could simply have surged from the hilly hinterland of the cities they suddenly sacked56, the better documented consensus view is that they were one of the "Sea People" invader groups who arrived in the late thirteenth century BCE, at the time when their iron weapons began to replace bronze. These Bronze Age Vikings overran or attacked many cities and empires all around the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Bible says repeatedly that the Philistines had come from Caphtor57, and many scholars believe Caphtor was Crete58. The archaeological picture agrees in general but is more complex.
The finds from Philistine sites suggest that the people who lived there were not a homogenous group from one particular place. Although they shared much cultural background, their tangible traces reflect a cosmopolitan mixture of many different influences59 from the coast of Asia Minor, from Mycenae and the Aegaean islands, as well as from Cyprus and, of course, from their traditional home island of Crete.
This historical group thus resembled the about contemporary semi-mythical one of the "Greek" coalition that besieged Troy. These raiders, whom Homer called collectively and interchangeably Achaians or Argives or Danaans, had flocked together in Aulis near Mycenae to follow Agamemnon and his hundred ships to the North-East of their collective territory. However, they hailed from all over Greece -- which was at that time very far from being a unified nation -- and they came from islands as far away as Rhodes.
The third-largest contingent among these multi-ethnic besiegers arrived in eighty ships from the then very prosperous and populous60 "Crete of the hundred cities"61 in that territory’s South, led by "the lords of Crete gathered about their king Idomeneus"62.
A similar region-wide call by "Philistine" leaders to join their Viking-like campaign would explain the variety of styles among their followers, and the location of Crete as a natural staging area for raids to the East and South matches the tradition that they came from that island.
Taking into account that Crete was at that time more culturally advanced and influential than many of its northern neighbors, a probable scenario is that similar groups of adventurers flocked to Crete from around the shores of the Aegaean, each with its own lord and captains and cultural cohesion. Such subgroups would have included, for instance, the Tjekker and the Denyen who were members of the Aegaean group the Philistines dominated and whom the Egyptians mentioned on occasion separately63.
These sea-borne contingents then followed presumably Cretan leaders and crews to the Levant where they may or may not have met up with other groups who had arrived from Anatolia by land. Those among the several waves of such raiders who settled in the conquered territory then entered the written record as the "Peleset" or, as we call them now, the Philistines.
Although the homeland of the Philistines may thus be fuzzy-edged, their connection with the Disk is clear.
That Phaistos Disk is stamped all over with the distinctive "fluted crowns" that identified these raiders when they sailed East a few centuries after the Disk was buried. The symbolism on the Disk survived thus in that of the Philistines, wherever they or it might have come from.
Actually, the Disk is more firmly connected with the Philistines as religious descendants of its maker than it is with Crete.
Although the Phaistos Disk was found in Crete, we ignore if it was also made there. As noted above, its finder compared its fine clay immediately to the same fine clay he had seen in the pottery found at nearby Kamares64.
Also, several of the pictographs on it resemble images attested from that period in Crete. However, the clay has not been analyzed and could have come from many other places, and similar images occur also in Mycenaean Greece and Aegaean as well as Anatolian sites, in Egypt, or elsewhere. Some of the pictures are so generic that they could fit anywhere. In fact, some of them resemble signs on the rongo-rongo tablets from Easter Island and do not thereby imply some ancient Cretan trader blown far, really far off course, who then taught his drafting skills to the future locals.
Some scholars have therefore claimed the Disk to be an import from somewhere else in that wider region65, 66, or even beyond. None of them cited any basis for their assertions, but the possibility of a stray cannot be ruled out. The Disk resembles no other artifact from Crete or anywhere else, and we saw above that the Cretans of that time sailed far and wide. The place where the Disk turned up says therefore nothing about where it was made.
Furthermore, even if someone analyzed the trace elements in the clay from which the two sides of the Disk were made and so pinpointed the source of its raw material right to a backyard of the palace at Phaistos, those results for the substrate would still not reveal the source of the content that we find copied onto that local clay.
However, the link between that contents and the Philistines is solid. The Disk is stamped all over with the distinctive "hedgehog hairdos" or "fluted crowns" that identified these raiders when they sailed East a few centuries after the Disk was buried. The symbolism on the Disk survived clearly in that of the Philistines, wherever they or it might have come from, and its composer clearly shared that symbolism with them.
Even though the signs could have been impressed on the Disk many years before the earthquake that preserved its only known copy, it is in such pristine condition that whoever made it probably predated the historical Philistines by less centuries than, say, the authors of the Beowulf epic or the Chanson de Roland or the Hildebrandslied predate us.
So, if we call the poetry of these masters Old English and Old French and Old High German, regardless how their people named their language and themselves, or how many social upheavals, religious revolutions, and migrations shuffled their group identities between their time and ours, we stand on equally firm ground in calling the work of the Phaistos Disk maker "Old Philistine".
Contact us at recoveredscience.com