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 T-shirts seem to express distress not only through their inversion. They may well be the only sign on the Disk for which we can deduce the ancient phonetic name of the object depicted as well as its semantic value as a word, with a meaning that the context appears to confirm.
The "T-shirt" pictograph resembles the Egyptian and Mycenaean body armor corselets that the early Greek Pylos tablets from less than four centuries after the Disk call "thorax". These cuirass- like corselets were linen tunics with bronze plates sewn into their thick layers to protect the warriors who wore them. They are prominent props in the Iliad which repeatedly describes some of them as "much decorated" and "elaborately crafted", including those that failed to do their job and got pierced by arrows or spears.
In the entire epic, these words of praise are heaped on such corselets more often than on any other object, illustrating their importance in the world Homer describes, only a few centuries after the Disk142.
The sign that seems to represent those corselets also looks similar to the syllabic sign "ta" from the Linear B script which appeared on Crete a couple of centuries after the Disk was made. If the T-shirts were meant to depict this type of armor, and if "thor" was equivalent to "tar", then they supply the perfect label for this abode of danger and doom after death.
"Thorax" is now a loan word from Greek in many European languages to designate the chest cage these corselets protected. The Greeks, in turn, and apparently also the Old Philistines, had borrowed the term from the Hurrians in Syria together with that armor type.
Hurrian armor was renowned as "the best" during the second millennium, and remnants of such corselets were found in Mycenae, Cyprus, and Egypt. The Hurrians called those corselets "sarijanni", "sariam", and "zarijam". This name was written "trjn" in the vowel-less Ugaritic script and could easily have led to "thor" or "tar" in Crete and Greece145.
A double "thor" or "tar" for the two T-shirts in this field after death would then spell something like "thor-thor" or "tar-tar". This evokes, of course, the infamous Tartarus from the Greek myths which was a similar place of deep distress after death, and which seems to have had the same name and reputation on the pre-Greek Disk.
5.4.2. Tartarus as west-west
The "tar" interpretation of the "T-shirt" matches also the many other occurrences of that sign on the Disk because the meaning of this syllable is known.
The poet and mythographer Robert Graves pointed out that "tar" seemed to mean "west" in the pre-Hellenic language of Crete. Geographical names often persist long after the namers were replaced by speakers of other languages. Just think, for instance, about the profusion of Native American names on American maps. And it seems logical to assume that the pre-Greek Cretans, the dominant seafarers of their time, would have given names in their language to some of their destinations.
Long after the language used on Crete had become Greek, the Cretan word "tar" was preserved in the names of ancient places in the West, such as Tartessos the silver city in Spain far to the West, or Tarrha, the principal port of western Crete146 and equivalent of many a Westport on English and North American maps. Some scholars are also said to hold that the fabulous town of Tarshish was to be found far to the West147, 148.
In the Odyssey, the Greek world of the dead was located to the west149, and in Egypt, too, the direction of sundown had always been the traditional home of the dead.
The association of the sign for body armor with the direction to the land of the dead makes sense because this battle gear was inherently connected with fighting and grim death, as a look at the Iliad quickly illustrates.
The inverted T-shirts after death suggest then that Tar-tar meant in Cretan "west-west", or "westernmost" since the repetition of a word was typically used to emphasize its meaning. All this fits again neatly the field after "death".
5.4.3. The sun travels west in a boat
Most of the other times we find that T-shirt on the Disk, it appears together with the boat, and often also with the rayed head.
The boat was a symbol of divine travel, to the point that the Egyptians often carried the statues of their gods in portable barges even if the entire procession went over dry land. The boat was also the sun god’s principal means of travel across the Egyptian sky, and it is easy to imagine that the seafaring Old Philistines would have shared that belief.
If the rayed head represented the sun, then its frequent association with the boat and the "west" T-shirt sign simply expressed that the sun travels westward in his skyboat. This provides a punctuation for the passage of time along the track, and it proves at long last that the sun traveled in the same direction back then as today, even before the biblical Joshua would tell it to stand still.
The upside-down position of the T-shirts can then be seen not only as a sign of the distress in that dreaded field but also as an overturning of their "west-west" meaning into its opposite, or "east-east". That was in Egypt the direction of the sun’s travel at night through the underworld where it got rejuvenated and returned to its place of rising.
The Egyptians expressed this switch in the direction of travel by turning that part of the sun’s path upside down, as in this description which the Egyptologist Erik Hornung gives for a scene in the "Book of Gates", one of the funerary texts from the New Kingdom, where the entire course of the sun is compressed into a single picture:
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