One of the most puzzling archaeological finds of the 20th century, the Phaestos Disc (also spelled Phaistos and Phaestus) is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the Greek island of Crete. The exact age of the disc is unknown but is thought to date to the middle or late late Minoan Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC).
The disc was discovered in the basement ruins of the Minoan palace temple of Phaestos, on the south coast of Crete in 1908. It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Recognised as the earliest known printed inscription (a few millenia before the printing-press) its purpose and meaning, as well as its original place of manufacture are much disputed, making it one of the more interesting mysteries of archaeology.
Many attempts to decipher the disc have been made, to date there is no single accepted translation. Theories about the meaning of the disc range from calendar-wheel, temple prayer text, geometric theorem and even the possibility of an ancient board game.
The complete inscription on the disc constitutes 241 symbols, made up of 45 different symbols, 122 on one side and 119 on the reverse. The pictographs appear to have been made by pressing pre-formed stamps into clay, in a clockwise sequence spiralling towards the center. Many of the 45 different symboles represent easily identifiable every-day things, including human figures, fish, birds, insects, plants, a boat, a shield, a staff, etc. In addition to these, there is a small diagonal line that occurs underneath the final sign in a group a total of 18 times. The disk shows traces of corrections made by the scribe in several places. The 45 symbols were numbered by Arthur Evans (a British Archaeologist) from 01 to 45, this numbering has become the conventional reference used by most researchers.
The original Phaestos disc is currently on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion, Crete.