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
Trademark headgear such as that of the Philistine warriors, shown above at left, next to the sun-head from the Disk at right, usually owed its looks not to practical considerations. In most cultures, ancient or modern, the task of special headgear, from miters to mortar boards, is not to keep the wearer dry or warm or shaded, but to serve as instantly recognizable symbols that each convey a message.
The role of such visual symbols was even stronger in earlier times, before regular writing took over some of the information- carrying burden. In Ancient Egypt, for instance, the gods displayed their emblems on their human or animal heads and so expressed their special qualities for all to see. The pharaohs even wore different crowns to suit different occasions.
Religion and magic determined virtually every aspect of life in the ancient world, and conspicuous symbols, particularly when worn as identifiers, were typically invested with magico- religious powers themselves. The ancestral "fluted crown" of the Philistine warriors was therefore not just an arbitrary means for protecting their heads from blows or for recognizing each other in battle.
That crest of rays was a religious and magical symbol67, like the cattle horns that other warriors wore on their helmets to imitate their horned or bull- masked gods. It also resembles in profile the horsehair helmet crests which adorn Classical Greek warriors on vases and in poems.
The shapes and general meanings of religious symbols tend to stay very stable over time. For instance, future archaeologists will be able to tell from the presence of crosses in the ruins of North American cities that Christians had taken their religion there, even though the sites may be far from where Christianity originated, and a couple millennia younger.
In Egypt, the headgear emblems of the gods remained essentially unchanged for more than three thousand years, from before the earliest dynasties until the end of paganism68. A famous Egyptologist once said that king Menes, founder of the First Dynasty, would have recognized Amun, or Osiris, in a Ptolemaic or Roman- period temple69. Throughout this immense span of time, visual markers such as the ramís head of Ra or the "Feather of Truth" on the head of Maat and the throne on that of Isis kept their same meanings.
The earthquake that buried the Disk predated the Philistines by as little as, say, the Gutenberg Bible predates our current editions of the same text: a mere moment compared with the longevity of mainstream religious beliefs and symbols, particularly back then when deep cultural change crept even slower than today. We can therefore safely say that a time- traveling Palace- Period king Minos would have been equally familiar with the Philistine's religious icons, including their most characteristic symbol the "fluted crown" headdress.
That hallmark was not entirely exclusive, but the only ancient infringer supports its interpretation as sun rays. The popular Egyptian dwarf god Bes wore in slightly later times often a crown of feathers that resembled the Philistine headgear. However, his grotesque features identify him immediately and prevent him from being confused with any Philistine. Furthermore, Bes was a solar deity70, so he confirms the meaning of the rayed head as symbol of the sun.
Virtually all the non-Bes wearers of the "fluted crown" show up typically in places associated with the Philistines: in Egypt which they tried to invade, in Canaan where they settled, and in Cyprus, Mycenae, and Crete from where some among them came71.
Examples from the Sea Raider time or earlier include "fluted crown heads" on a seal72 and
Triada in Crete75; and on a votive axe from a Cretan cult cave at Arcalochori76. The pictograph groupings on that axe, three short columns of six, six, and three signs, show a head with a Philistine -style crest twice from the front and three times from the side.
The most famous portraits of the Philistines, including the one in the example at the top of this page, are preserved in the wall reliefs from Pharaoh Ramesses III's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu in Egypt, dated to about 1175 BCE77, and on the Phaistos Disk. The most frequent among the 45 signs on that Disk is also the most frequent occurrence of the Philistine "fluted crown" outside the Egyptian reliefs -- nineteen stamped side views of a head with that unmistakable crest.
3.2. The bald head as death of the rayed one
interpretation of the "hedgehog hairdo" on the other nineteen. Their lack of hair begins the thread that will guide us to their meaning and to that of most other signs.
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