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in our e-book     The Board Game on the  Phaistos Disk

by H. Peter Aleff


Phaistos Disk Story

Summary of Volume One

Table of Contents

Riddle introduction

Translation examples

New perspective

Rosette symbolism

Rosette examples

Gameboard tracks

Heads on Disk

Philistine connection

Philistine fluted crown

Senet as key to Disk 

Senet enduring magic

Calendar gameboards

Marks on Senet squares

Senet and Phaistos Disk

Metonic cycle on Disk

Command- Life- Down >>

T-shirt sign Tartarus

Preview Vol. 2

Reader responses

Game of the Goose
and Labyrinth

Goose Introduction
Riddle of Goose
Goose Game Rules
Labyrinth Riddle
Phaistos Disk Riddle
Labyrinth clues 1
Labyrinth clues 2
Labyrinth clues 3
Labyrinth rules 1
Labyrinth rules 2
Goose versus Disk
Solomon's Labyrinth 1
Solomon's Labyrinth 2

Before Quantum
Quantum Now
Rules for Quantum
Quantum Responses
Quantum Reviews 1
Quantum Reviews 2
Quantum Reviews 3
Quantum Rewards

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Footnotes :


137 Upper picture on vase redrawn from Figure 67 in Roger Cook: "The Tree of Life: Image for the Cosmos", Thames and Hudson, New York, 1974, page 119. 

Lower picture on seal redrawn from Erich Neumann: "The Great Mother: An analysis of an archetype", Princeton University Press, 1963, Figure  67, page 312.  This  seal is in the Louvre.


138 Ruth Hestrin: "Understanding Asherah - Exploring Semitic Iconography", Biblical Archaeology Review, September/ October 1991, pages 50-59, see pages 53 top left and pages 54-56 left. See also Carol Meyers: "Origin of the Menorah?", reply to readers' letters in Biblical Archaeology Review, January/ February 1992, pages 12 & 14, and Roger Cook: "The Tree of Life - Image for the Cosmos", Thames and Hudson, New York, 1988.


139 For the hieroglyphic meaning of the mace, see Sir Alan Gardiner: "Egyptian Grammar", Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, first published 1927, edition consulted 1982, page 509 bottom, sign S 42. Compare also Isaiah 14:5.


140 For maces as emblem of power, see Manfred Lurker: "The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt - An Illustrated Dictionary", Thames and Hudson, New York, 1980, page 79 top. Also Michael Allen Hoffman: "Egypt before the Pharaohs", Dorset Press, New York, 1990, page 302 bottom, and Avraham Biran: "Tel Dan Scepter Head Prize Find", Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1989, pages 29-31.


141 Richmond Lattimore, translator and introducer: "The Iliad of Homer", (I:234-239, 279); first published 1951, edition consulted from The University of Chicago Press, 1962, pages 65-66.




  Volume 1: its siblings Senet and Snake Game,


 and its surviving sequel the Royal Game of the Goose


You are on page

5.3. The "Command"
for "Life" to go "Down"

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17   

Phaistos field 57, just before the "death" signs in 58, supports the identification of its neighbor with Senetís "House of Death" because it ominously announces that event.  The three Phaistos signs in this field look like pictographs for these items:


Phaistos field 57, with the "bough of life", the "down" arrow, and the "command" mace

A Tree of Life on a Mesopotamian stone vase from before 3000 BCE.

TreeofLifeAkkadianseal.gif (5290 bytes)

A Tree of Life on an Akkadian seal from about 2500 BCE.137

  • a twig or bough with five leaves or branches. Such boughs were a frequent symbol for life, growth, and revival, like the Jewish Menorah which is derived from a very similar shape138, or like the tree of life above.

  • a forked branch that points downward and may simply be a universal directional sign meaning "down"; and finally

  • a scepter, or rather its precursor, the ceremonial mace. Early maces of this type are known from the Narmer Palette and from the pre-dynastic deposits in Hierakonpolis. In Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, a picture of such a mace was the ideogram for "power" and "control" and related words139, and many ancient rulers held such maces as a widely recognized symbol of their power to command140.

    For instance, in the Iliad Achilles invokes the mace as the symbol of kings who "carry it in their hands when they administer the justice of Zeus"
    141. A few verses later, he describes that scepter as "studded with golden nails". This means it derives from the scepter of a sun king or sun god whose rays the golden nails presumably represented.

These interpretations of the signs are necessarily tentative at this point, and they can only be firmed up gradually through their repeated fits into their other contexts.

With this in mind, plugging these generic values into the ideograms of that field 57 before "death" yields either a "command" for "life" to go "down", or an equivalent statement that "life" and "power" go "down". Both those interpretations fit perfectly as announcements of the death in the next field.

5.4. The Phaistos field of distress after death

We saw earlier that the "death" field after this "down" announcement for "life" portrays the so predicted death of the previously rayed head, as expressed by its loss of hair and the two cycle-ending circles on its cheek, as well as by the "transition" rosette next to it.

The field after this death, in turn, matches the "distress" field which follows the "House of Death" in Senet, and its signs tell the same tale of woe as the "difficulty and danger" of the "X" or "water" field where the gamepieces "drowned" in Egypt.

field 59

Phaistos field 59 illustrates the deceased and fallen head's entrance into the afterworld, and what it encounters there does not look good. The ray-crested head is knocked over face down, and the two T-shirt-like signs next to it are turned all the way upside down.

Turning something upside down is an intuitive and apparently universal expression of distress or damage; the Egyptians used it that way and even called the world after death the "inverted world". The Phaistos field with those inverted signs suggests the Cretans shared that same metaphor.

The overturning of the T-shirts is all the more notable as the same entire group of signs from that field occurs already twelve spaces earlier, except that there, head and T-shirts are upright. The duplication of this sign group appears to indicate that the pieces were sent back to the first field with those signs if they landed on the second one where some of the signs are overturned.

This twelve-field setback suggested by the similarity of the sign groups is an exact counterpart to Kendallís tentatively reconstructed setback of twelve squares in Senet, from the corresponding field 27 right after Senet's "death" square to the occasionally marked middle of its board at square 15.





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