The Phaistos Disk puts the art in artifact as it delivers complex information in a simple way, based on the Minoan love of mazes and their creation of our 48 original constellations by connecting stars with lines. The two-sided terra cotta disk from the Mediter-ranean Bronze Age was found in 1908 in a basement of the burned-down Phaistos Palace, Crete. Fire-hardened, perhaps by the fire, it is an anomaly in a Minoan world of sun-baked pottery. One of archaeology's greatest mysteries, it is, like the universe, a masterpiece of concealment. When we are right in the heart of it, we see chaos, but that only conceals the patterns. I see patterns that convince me that the Phaistos Disk and the Maze of Daedalus are the same thing, just with different names. In the Phaistos Disk, we have the artifact but not the narrative, and in the Maze of Daedalus, we have the narrative but not the artifact. They fit together like interlocking puzzle pieces.

The Daedalus myth, from Greek mythology begun in the Minoan civilization, involves the Shell Riddle. King Minos of Crete went searching for Daedalus, who vanished after the death of Icarus, the son who flew too close to the sun and died. The King traveled from city to city looking for Daedalus by asking those he met to solve the riddle, knowing only Daedalus could solve it. The riddle was a spiral seashell, in which the solution was to successfully run a string through it. He was finally able to locate Daedalus, who tied a string to an ant that walked through the seashell, lured by honey placed at the end of it. The Disk is the spiral seashell, and the spirals of the Disk are the string running through, becoming known as Ariadne's Thread in a later reworked version involving Theseus, a Minotaur, and a maze. The riddle in all cases is how to get all the way through the Disk, seashell, or maze to the end without getting confused, stuck, or killed.

Ant carrying leaf240 pictographs and 60 line segments create a chaos that conceals the Shell Riddle. A leaf carried by an ant conceals the ant, a pictograph.

Phaistos Disk

The solution to a maze puzzle is the uninterrupted path through a series of intricate line segments from a starting point to a goal. This maze puzzle, the Shell Riddle, is not solved until the outside spirals of the Disk are part of the uninterrupted path from the center of Side 1 (flower) to the center of Side 2 (honey pot.) To solve the maze, overlap Side 1 onto Side 2 at the matching, connecting line segments. Next, start at the top center (flower), then move counterclockwise. Cross over from Spiral 3, to Spiral 5, Side 2 (green leaf), and move clockwise. Cross over from Spiral 5, Side 2, to Spiral 4, Side 1 (red leaf). Cross over from Spiral 4, Side 1, to Spiral 4, Side 2 (purple leaf). Cross over from Spiral 4, Side 2, to Spiral 5, Side 1 (blue leaf). Cross over from Spiral 5, Side 1, to Spiral 3, Side 2 (orange leaf), and travel to the center of Side 2 (honey pot), ccreating the shape of a figure 8 twice. Return in the same pattern. (3 into 5, 5 into 4, 4 into 5, 5 into 3) The outside spirals have been incorporated into the path.

1,600 years after Minos Palace, Plutarch wrote "Life of Theseus," enshrining that Maze of Daedalus revision into history. He said he was trying to create a hero to parallel Romulus. Plutarch's story of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur is believed to be a late Bronze Age invention, 500 years after the Disk was made, created perhaps because the story of an ant's progress through a spiral seashell lacks suspense. The travels of the King could be embellished, how he found Daedalus all ragged and shoeless and wracked with grief, barely able to commandeer an ant. But it still does not compete with a hero lost in a maze, battling a Minotaur to the death, and sailing away with the lovely Ariadne. Times haven't changed that much; adventure beats contemplation. If Theseus existed long enough to sail away, he did it in this, and he sailed high up over the Aegean, becoming Jason in the process.

Constellation Argo

Jason and the Argonauts quested for the Golden Fleece of the Winged Ram, pictographs on the Disk. They sailed the Argo about 600 years after the wave-tossed Argo on the Phaistos Disk. This Argo is not drawn backwards, because it is the original version, logically sailing bow-forward. It has been sailing illogically stern-forward on constellation maps for the last 2,300 years, thanks perhaps to Johannes Hevelius' constellation map of 1642 CE, influenced by Aratos (310-245 BCE), who famously wrote, "Sternforward thus is Jason's Argo Drawn." Minoan astronomers would have a laugh! When Jason comes back down to earth to become Theseus again, sailing the Aegean, he will find the Phaistos Disk handy to have on board.

Heliacal Rising of Sirius, North Star

With the line segments, he can divide time as needed--months of the year (12 line segments, outside spirals), days of the month (30 each side), hours of the day (24 combined outside spirals), minutes of the hour (60 line segments combined, both sides). With 12 line segments on each outside spiral and 18 on the inside spirals (36), he has on hand a zodiac stellar calendar, a Sothic calendar, and a lunisolar calendar.

Minoans, like Egyptians, probably divided the nightsky into 36 star groups, or decans, that form constellations and divide the 360-degree ecliptic into 36 parts of 10 degrees each. A new decan appears above the horizon every 10 days, totaling 360 days. 18 star groups spiral into the center (18 line segments of the inner spirals) as they move to the underworld of Tartarus (go below the horizon) for 70 days before they reappear. 70 is the exact number of pictographs, beginning at the crossover from Side 1 to Side 2, counting from the first pictograph met with in spiral 4, the dog, "dog star," an ancient symbol for Sirius. Each one of these pictographs is a day in which the star Sirius, seen rising with the sun on Side 1, has now disappeared from the sky on Side 2. A 360-day year is accounted for, with the addition of 5 days for 365, the Egyptian method, and then correcting the calendars to the heliacal rising of Sirius. With 2 sides of the Disk, 30 line segments on each side, a lunisolar calendar is present. Side 1, solar (flower), tracks days and months, and Side 2, lunar (star), tracks star time. The Phaistos Disk accounts for all divisions of earth time, and it would seem cosmic time is entirely out of reach, but Daedalus is not known as the world's greatest inventor for nothing. Not just earth time, but all infinity is accounted for by the Phaistos Disk Maze of Daedalus.

Phaistos Disk

The Phaistos Disk exists not only to preserve the most cherished maze of an ancient maze-loving civilization, but also to describe an origin of the universe that involves a birth rather than a loud explosion, because this is a goddess-worshipping culture. Plutarch and Plotinus give accounts of an ancient worldview involving a numerological outlook passed down from Crete.

Formed in the womb of Rhea (Chaos) were 5 main divisions or layers of cosmic stuff (cosmoi), and into these layers or firmaments formed 60 soul spaces made of 60 types of soul-stuff, comprising 240 individual souls made of 48 "ark types" (ships of the sky or constellations). The 5 layers are the 5 spirals on each side of the Disk (10), which are divided into 30 line segments (60); the 60 soul spaces in Rhea's womb. The 240 individual souls she creates are the total number of pictographs. The 48 soul types--ark types--are the number of unique pictographs--archetypes--on the Disk, and also the number of the ancient world's major constellations, originating in Minoan Crete.

"And in these sixty spaces dwell the souls, each one according to its nature, for though they are of one and the same substance, they are not of the same dignity." (Plutarch)

Daedalus knows a truth and reaches through time to convey it. Rhea has cleverly become Cosmos in order to birth us into Being so that she can teach us that Chaos is merely the veil she uses to conceal from view the preexistent world and our afterlife journey of return to it, mirrored herein by our return to this lost world.

Great Pyramid

Theseus ascends to the Argo to become Jason once again, to seek for and to find the Golden Fleece in the Subterranean Chamber of the Great Pyramid residing with Rhea, her veil removed to reveal her down below. The maze leads back to where it came from: to the preexistent world of Daedalus, to the Minoan followers of Rhea, and to the Egyptian followers of Isis. They gather in the Great Pyramid to share the secret, sacred knowledge of geometry, astronomy, and mathematics, meant for hooded initiates only and concealed from view by chaos in the Maze of Daedalus on the Phaistos Disk.

Phaistos Disk Pictographs

Although the Phaistos Disk does not display a hieroglyphic language--the pictographs are placeholders for the hidden, larger pictographs--these little pictures, in groupings, can tell a story by using the narrative technique "continuous representation," the depiction of successive incidents or scenes within a single composition by artists telling a story with their art. Begun in Mesopotamia, it was fully developed in Minoan Crete in their mosaics.

Just as letters are arranged to produce words, so pictographs can be arranged to produce entire narratives. A pictograph is an ideogram, conveying its meaning through what it resembles, unlike hieroglyphs, which tell a story using phonetic or alphabetic composition. Where hieroglyphs gain meaning by successive placement of the glyphs and represent words, pictographs gain meaning by selective grouping of the signs and convey ideas by what they resemble. Where script is abstract and has to be deciphered and read, involving speech sounds, a pictograph is a symbol complete within itself, representing an object or an idea, thus transcending the language barrier that existed then as now. The 116-year-old debate of whether to "read" the Disk from the inside spiraling out or the outside spiraling in is irrelevant, as are the phonetic attempts.

Isis in her Skiff

Daedalus provided a means to visually reconstruct this ancient world from pictographs. In this middle set above, ideograms show the Isis-Osiris myth well-known to the Minoans and the Aegean world. When Osiris's evil brother Typhon was out hunting pigs with his dogs by the river, he found the body of Osiris that he had earlier thrown, inside a coffin chest, into the Nile River, chopped the body into pieces with his axe, and threw it back into the Nile. Isis, learning of the death of Osiris, got into her skiff and, nursing the baby Diktys with her finger while beating her chest in mourning, found all the pieces except for two, the phallus eaten by the Sharp-snout fish and the Nile crab, and the piece that grew into the 5- Branch Tree.

Scenes of Minoan Crete in Pictographs

Pictographs afford the opportunity to create art like this, and the Phaistos Disk, if it is anything, is art. Daedalus used pictographs not only as placeholders, but also to convey more information about the Minoan world, perhaps in the hope that we might one day find all the stories etched into the Disk.

Scenes of Minoan Crete in Pictographs

Phaistos Disk/Minoan Wave Spirals

Copyright Notice - Disk of the World - Text and images copyrighted March 21, 1993-2024, Claire Grace Watson, B.A., M.S.T., U.S. Copyright and under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, All rights reserved.