Proposal to add the Phaistos Disk Script to Unicode/ISO-IEC 10646

The Phaistos Disk was discovered in an archaeological dig in Phaistos, Crete, in 1908. It's a clay disk about 16 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick with 242 signs stamped onto the two sides. The 242 signs consist of 45 different characters separated by lines into a total of 61 groups of two to seven characters.

The disk has been dated to the mid-18th century B.C. and is contemporary with Linear A. Indeed, it was found among Linear A tablets.

There is universal agreement that the symbols on the script are an example of writing, but despite the continued interest of classicists, professional and amateur, for nearly ninety years, the writing has not been deciphered, nor have any other examples of this writing been discovered.

Some guesses can be made about the writing system of the disk. It was probably a syllabary and likely consisted of about fifty to sixty symbols on the whole. Nor should the Phaistos Disk be taken as the only possible specimin of this script--the fact that somebody went to the trouble to create stamps with which to write it implies that it was used for more than one document. (Indeed, Chadwick goes so far as to call it the world's first typewritten document.)

Given the uniquely low utility of this script, encoding anywhere other than Plane 1 is unthinkable.

Issues

The fundamental issue, of course, is should this be encoded at all? There is exactly one extant document in this script, and a short one at that. That could change at any minute, but given the failure of any other document written with this script to surface in nearly a century, it doesn't seem likely.

On the other hand, that single document is rather famous and the writing system used on it of interest. It is rather the Fermat's Last Theorem of Aegean archaeology--a sure course to fame and fortune is to decipher it and solve the mystery.

Words on the Phaistos disk are separated by vertical lines. It may be desirable to encode a PHAISTOS DISK WORD SEPARATOR at 0001 xx00 and then shift everything else.

References

References to the Phaistos disk and reproductions of it are remarkably easy to come by. (A Web search of "Phaistos disk" or "Phaistos disc" is very educational.)

  • Bennett, Emmett L. (1996). "Aegean Scripts." In The World's Writing Systems , edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. Oxford: University Press.
  • Chadwick, John. (1987). Linear B and Related Scripts Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Gaur, Albertine. (1984). A History of Writing. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Godart, Louis. 1995. The Phaistos Disc: the enigma of an Aegean script. Tr. Alexandra Doumas. s.l.: Éditions Itanos. ISBN 960-1549-02-3

    Name Chart

    0001 xx00 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL PEDESTRIAN
    0001 xx01 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL PLUMED HEAD
    0001 xx02 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL TATTOOED HEAD
    0001 xx03 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL CAPTIVE
    0001 xx04 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL CHILD
    0001 xx05 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL WOMAN
    0001 xx06 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL HELMET
    0001 xx07 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL GAUNTLET
    0001 xx08 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL TIARA
    0001 xx09 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL ARROW
    0001 xx0A PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL BOW
    0001 xx0B PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL SHIELD
    0001 xx0C PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL CLUB
    0001 xx0D PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL MANACLES
    0001 xx0E PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL MATTOCK
    0001 xx0F PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL SAW
    
    0001 xx10 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL LID
    0001 xx11 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL BOOMERANG
    0001 xx12 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL CARPENTRY PLANE
    0001 xx13 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL DOLIUM
    0001 xx14 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL COMB
    0001 xx15 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL SLING
    0001 xx16 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL COLUMN
    0001 xx17 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL BEEHIVE
    0001 xx18 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL SHIP
    0001 xx19 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL HORN
    0001 xx1A PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL HIDE
    0001 xx1B PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL BULL LEG
    0001 xx1C PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL CAT
    0001 xx1D PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL RAM
    0001 xx1E PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL EAGLE
    0001 xx1F PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL DOVE
    
    0001 xx20 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL TUNNY
    0001 xx21 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL BEE
    0001 xx22 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL PLANE TREE
    0001 xx23 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL VINE
    0001 xx24 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL PAPYRUS
    0001 xx25 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL ROSETTE
    0001 xx26 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL LILY
    0001 xx27 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL OX BACK
    0001 xx28 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL FLUTE
    0001 xx29 PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL GRATER
    0001 xx2A PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL STRAINER
    0001 xx2B PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL SMALL AXE
    0001 xx2C PHAISTOS DISK SYMBOL WAVY BAND
    0001 xx2D (This position shall not be used)
    0001 xx2E (This position shall not be used)
    0001 xx2F (This position shall not be used)
    

    Code chart

    Examples

     

    The front of the disk
    The back of the disk