Clues to the Labyrinth (Part 1):
On the Labyrinth gameboard which you can see by clicking the thumbnail picture at left,
we combined the paths from both sides of the Phaistos Disk into one, and we made each field square.
The sequence of the fields on this combined game path remains the same as on the two sides of the Disk, connected end to end as shown by the numbers we added to the fields on each side from the outer rosettes on. The end of the path is marked by the bald heads paired with rosettes at the center of one side.
We started at the outside rosettes because on many ancient gameboards of that region the same eight- leaf rosettes appeared again and again in the same locations on the board and seem to have marked the fields that were important in the game, such as the beginning and end.
Outside the gameboards, in the real world back then, these same rosettes turned up most often in contexts of birth, death, or rebirth—symbols of "renaissance" long before that modern word was coined, and proper matches for beginning and end.
Folding the so combined string of fields to preserve the two U-turns from the Disk, though now in different spots, yields a square labyrinth. The labyrinth was a design which Greek mythology consistently associated with ancient Crete. Labyrinth drawings were and are just as often square as they were round.
The entrance into this square is next to the middle of one side, and the center field is enlarged, both as in the typical labyrinth plans. This arrangement is the only one with two U-turns which fits the entire string of fields neatly into a larger square. That larger square winds up with eight fields per side, as on a chess board, and it evokes the checker- boards that typically marked the entrance to the Labyrinth in ancient Greek vase paintings.
For instance, the decoration at the entrance of our Labyrinth gameboard and on the booklet cover is copied from a vase now in the British Museum. It shows Theseus dragging the Minotaur out of the Labyrinth. Professor Charles F. Herberger, from whose book "The Riddle of the Sphinx" (1979), we redrew the illustration, explains with additional examples that these checkerboards on labyrinth entrances or near Minotaurs were meant as symbols for the labyrinth itself, just like the better- known design with the visibly winding path.
This "chessboard labyrinth" appears to have been the original arrangement of the gameboard path because in this order, two pairs of identical fields fall into place diagonally opposite each other to form a "hub" around which the fields with the "raptor bird" and "serpent" signs perform a perfect chess knight's tour which then continues around the enlarged center square.
The odds against such a well organized path arising by chance are astronomical, particularly since the signs around that "hub" and in that "knight's tour" depict accurately the configuration of the most prominent stars that turn around the celestial north pole, as shown on the next page.
Meanwhile, here are some more clues, as a guide for your own speculations when you ponder the possible meanings of the signs:
Sun gods back then were depicted with rays as hair, and loss of hair meant loss of strength, as in the story of Samson when he battled the Philistines. Loss of hair was also a sign of death and mourning (Leviticus 21, 5). Samson's name means, in Hebrew, "Little Sun".
The Egyptian sculptors showed the Philistines with a hairdo just like the crested head on the Disk.
Clue: Count the rayed sun heads, and the fields before the first bald one.
It takes nineteen years until the "rebirth" of the sun at the mid-winter solstice again coincides with the "rebirth" of a new moon on the same day; the Classical Greeks called the nineteen years between such "meetings of sun and moon" a "Great Year." The Greek way of counting was inclusive; they said "twenty years" where we would say "after the end of nineteen"; the year in ancient Crete, as in Egypt, had three seasons.
Samson with the sun- heads
Samson was Judge over Israel for twenty years before he lost his hair and then his life. Minoan Crete lay, in both space and time, in the middle between Ancient Egypt and Classical Greece, and about equally close to biblical Palestine.
Clue: Check the path length with "cats" and "shields"
The ancient Egyptian civil calendar month had 30 days. It started with the moon invisible and dark.
The Egyptian goddess of moonlight was Bast, the "Lady of the East". She was portrayed in her statues as a cat, and her Classical Greek counterpart, the moon goddess Artemis, once transformed herself into a cat.
The goddess of shadow, darkness and war, was Neith, the "Lady of the West". Her symbol was a shield with two crossed arrows. Herodotus identified Neith with the Greek goddess Athena. One of Athena's emblems was her shield. Another one was her owl, a bird that only hunts in darkness.
Continue, or buy the Game of the Goose and of the Labyrinth at www.gamepuzzles.com