Monday, July 14, 2008
Phaistos Disc A Hoax?
From Kevin Kelly's Blog:
The Phaistos Disc is an archeological object that some have considered the oldest example of moveable type in history. The characters on the clay disc were stamped from a set of "seals" creating a text written in a spiral, although neither the text nor the language of the text has been deciphered. It is presumed to be from the Minoan culture of around 1800 BC, which would put it 2,000 years or more earlier than moveable type in China, and 3,000 years before movable type in Europe.
The Phaistos Disc has been held up as a case of how easily information can be lost in the long term (an entire written language gone!), or how easily a technology ("printing") can be forgotten for millennia, only to be re-invented later. (Jared Diamond used the Phaistos Disc as an example of this argument.)
In the July 12th edition of the Times, Jerome Eisenberg, a specialist in faked ancient art, is claiming that the disc and its indecipherable text is not a relic dating from 1,700 BC, but a forgery that has duped scholars since Luigi Pernier, an Italian archaeologist, “discovered” it in 1908 in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on Crete.
Pernier was desperate to impress his colleagues with a find of his own, according to Dr Eisenberg, and needed to unearth something that could outdo the discoveries made by Sir Arthur Evans, the renowned English archaeologist, and Federico Halbherr, a fellow Italian.
He believes that Pernier's solution was to create a “relic” with an untranslatable pictographic text. If it was a ruse, it worked. Evans was so excited that he published an analysis of Pernier's findings. For the past century innumerable attempts have been made to decipher the disc. Archaeologists have tried linking them to ancient civilisations, from Greek to Egyptian.
Dr Eisenberg, who has conducted appraisals for the US Treasury Department and the J. Paul Getty Museum, highlighted the forger's error in creating a terracotta “pancake” with a cleanly cut edge. Nor, he added, should it have been fired so perfectly. “Minoan clay tablets were not fired purposefully, only accidentally,” he said. “Pernier may not have realised this.”
Labels: Phaistos Disc