Phaistos disk Side A
A fired-clay disk from the Second Millenium B.C. may finally have had some of its markings decoded.
The mysterious "Phaistos disk," found in 1908 in a palace called Phaistos on the island of Crete, contains symbols on both sides, in a spiral configuration meant to be read from the outside toward the center. It is estimated to date from about 1,700 B.C.
For better than a century, scientists have been trying to decode the meaning behind the symbols, and now Dr. Gareth Owens, of the Technological Educational Institute of Crete, says he has figured out some of its keywords and the general message it conveys.
The disk contains 241 "picture" segments created from 45 individual symbols. Owens argues that the disk -- about 6 inches in diameter -- contains a prayer to the mother goddess of the Minoan era.
"The most stable word and value is 'mother,' and in particular the mother goddess of the Minoan era," said Owens, according to Archaeology News Network.
Using specific groups of symbols Owens says one side of the disk contains the translated wording "great lady of importance" while the other uses the expression "pregnant mother." One side, Owens says, is dedicated to a pregnant woman and the other to a woman giving birth.
Owens spent six years working on the code with a colleague at Oxford University and says about 90 percent of one side of the disk can now be deciphered. In a talk, he jokingly referred to it as the first Minoan "CD-ROM" for its shape and hard-coded data.