From the September 1, 2013 issue of the online journal Popular Archaeology,

posted at

under the headings Cover Stories, Viewpoints

The Phaistos Disk: A New Approach
Part 4: Eclipses and lunar standstill cycles on the Disk.
By Peter Aleff   Sunday, September 01, 2013



The Phaistos Disk: A New Approach


As you saw in the earlier parts of this seriesthe symbols on the formerly mysterious Phaistos Disk were not writing but represented the signs on the fields of an ancient gameboard. The path on that board reproduced many astronomical references, such as the race between the light and darkness on the face of the moon during the standard 30-day month which she described in the previous installment. This time, you will discover that the Disk maker had also included along this path some longer and less obvious cycles of our celestial companion and former goddess, from her routine eclipses to the lunar standstills at the extremes of her motions along the horizon which are comparable to the solstices but with more variation.

The graph in Part 2 of "strider" steps corresponding to major calendrical and astronomical periods showed that the last of these "striders" appears in field 60 which is 54 fields distant from the start of time in field 6. This is where the flow of time began after the five intercalated days between the years on which the gods were born. This distance matches the 54 seasons of the so-called Saros cycle between eclipses which share virtually the same relative geometry between sun, moon, and earth, although moved to a different background of stars.

The name Saros is said to be ancient Babylonian for "repetition" and reflects that people had recognized this repetition of similar eclipses already in antiquity. However, this awareness is not attested as early as the time of the Phaistos Disk, and its appearance there pushes back the age of its earliest documentation by more than a thousand years.

Previously, the first known surviving descriptions of the Saros cycle dated from the last few centuries BCE in Mesopotamia. However, there is no reason why the Mesopotamians themselves as well as the Cretan and/or Egyptian eclipse watchers could not have noticed and puzzled out the same celestial regularities much earlier, particularly since the latter two lived under clearer skies. People had by then been observing and recording the behavior of the moon for many thousands of years, even long before they came up with writing. And once they did, they wrote many tablets and potsherds and other notations but left relatively few for us to find. Our minuscule sampling from their mountain of records does not exclude the possibility and often high probability that a skill or body of knowledge could have existed long before its first mentions show up in the small surviving written and deciphered record. Our finding the Saros already on the Phaistos Disk is therefore not an anachronism but rather continues the familiar pattern of discovering ever earlier traces from our species' intellectual achievements.

As explained in the excellent Wikipedia entry about the Saros, this cycle repeats its geometrically almost identical lunar eclipses every 18 years 11 days and 8 hours, or sometimes a day less depending on how many leap years fall in between. After three of these Saros cycles, or 54 years and 34 days, the repeated eclipse returns to the same time of day or night as the initial one, and it is also again visible from the same location on earth.

During the 18 years of the full cycle, about 40 other lunar eclipses occur, but each with a somewhat different geometry, and each with its own repetitions in a series of later Saros events which continue to cascade down the centuries for anywhere from 1226 to 1550 years in each series. Those series begin with their umbral path at one of the earth’s poles, either south or north, and move it gradually towards the other pole until the shadow misses the earth and disappears into empty space.


In addition to associating the number 54 with one of the important time periods in seasons or years identified by "strider steps" from field 6, the Disk maker also emphasized this number in field 54, shown at left, as counted from the beginning of the entire path.

Field 54 shows the female figure with a "down" arrow, in addition to the more frequent "forward" one. and with a sign that appears to illustrate an eclipse, as discussed below.


Like the “down” arrow in field 57 alongside the “bough of life” which announced there the end of the sun’s life cycle, the same “down” arrow in field 54 shows that something bad is happening also here. Among the other signs in this field 54 with the "down" arrow, the likely candidate as recipient or author of the harm appears to be the “Lady” there whom you will soon see identified as a manifestation of the waning-moon goddess. The most obvious bad event to affect a moon goddess is of course an eclipse of her moon, and although eclipses can only occur to full moons the event is so bad that it can also fit here the image of the dark and disappearing moon.



The shape of the earth-shadow sign in field 54


This proposed “down for eclipse” meaning of field 54 is further confirmed by the oblong sign which looks like the cartoon version of a flying saucer turned on its side, with a central cockpit bubble sticking out of the saucer’s top. In more conventional terms, this bubble is a small half circle with its other half hidden behind a much larger saucer-style shape that resembles a slimmed vesica piscis. It gives the impression that the small circle is on its way to hide behind said larger shape, just as the moon does when it enters the shadow of the earth. In other words, this sign appears to depict a beginning or partial eclipse of the moon.


It might be tempting to speculate about the “saucer” shape which is halfway hiding the “moon” in that sign. This shape cannot be the sun because the moon does not disappear behind the sun. It is also unlikely to be a large moon hiding a much smaller sun because even a casual observer learns soon that the sun is much farther away than the moon which can eclipse the sun. The more distant sun must therefore be much larger than the nearby moon, despite the sameness of their apparent sizes. The most logical guess is that the saucer-shape represents said shadow of the earth which is indeed much larger than the moon it obscures. The Cretan sign makers must have known from normal shadow observations and basic geometry that this “earth shadow” was caused by the sun shining behind it and in line with the moon on its other side.  


This reality-respecting interpretation does not suggest that the ancient Cretans believed the earth was a flattened bi-convex disc for casting a shadow of such a “saucer” shape. This shape could simply mean that the Disk maker followed a space-saving pictorial convention by flattening the actual circular shape of the shadow.


For instance, the Harappans in India used such a convention for representing the sun in a very similar vesica piscis shape, as proposed by the late Professor Walter A. Fairservis, Jr. The Harappan script remains undeciphered and may not even be a script, just as the stamps on the Phaistos Disk are not writing. However, some Harappan signs have been identified as numerals, such as grouped vertical strokes for the numbers one through 7, and a few others which appear in similar contexts.



Number eight is composed of two partly overlapping signs which Fairservis describes as “pictographs of the sun”. These are a little more rotund versions of the slightly slimmer saucer shape from Disk field 54. Number ten is one of these “sun” signs with a short vertical stroke inside. Fairservis further interprets as the moon a sign of the same vesica piscis shape but with division-lines inside which may evoke the lunar phases.
If two of these signs joined and partly overlapping form the numeral “eight”, then instead of representing two suns they may rather refer to the approximate “meeting of sun and moon” after eight years. This was an early version of the  “Great Year" when the new sun of the winter solstice almost coincided again with a new moon, although less accurately than in the later “Great Year” of 19 years. Our simplifying sign maker may have left out the division lines in the duplicate shape because everyone knew there was only one sun, and there was no need to differentiate the two equal-sized celestial bodies in the picture of their meeting. The second identical shape next to the sun would therefore likely have represented the moon.


The point of this comparison is that if the Harappans represented these round bodies as oblong shapes, then it is just as conceivable for the early Cretan sign makers to have followed a similar convenient convention of flattening circles into space-saving saucers. This flying-saucer-shape of the “earth shadow” on the Disk does therefore not imply that the ancient Cretans believed this to be its actual shape, or that they had been visited by cartoon extraterrestrials. 


The announcement in field 53 of the upcoming eclipse in 54



Further alluding to the eclipse event coming up in 54, the preceding field 53 appears to announce that the sun and moon are about to come together, or to join, if the sign with the two bumps on a flat base has the same meaning of “joining” or “tying together” as the similar-looking Egyptian hieroglyph Aa24 shown here which is related to weaving.


The two groups of three signs each on both sides of this central "joining" each include one of the "T-shirts", once with the “zodiac circle and sun head” combination, and in the other group with the "forward" arrow and the “dove” which was an attribute of the moon goddess but did also represent her as her substitute image.


Let us leave aside for now the meaning of the T-shirts which we will examine in the next installment of this series. Even without them, we can interpret the two groups of signs on each side of the possible "joining" hieroglyph. They tell us that the sun, represented by the head with the rayed hairdo, and the moon, in the form of the dove representing its goddess, are moving "forward" along the zodiac towards their "joining" in the next field 54. That is where they will produce together the eclipse of the moon illustrated by the “down” arrow and the “earth shadow” sign. This adds further evidence that the Disk maker was well aware of the 54-season/year Saros eclipse cycle and incorporated it into the gameboard path, many centuries before the next earliest surviving description of this lunar cycle.


The solar eclipse in the Saros


The Saros cycle produces not just lunar eclipses but also the same number of matching solar eclipses. These occur at the midpoint between the lunar ones, or 9 years, 5 days and 4 or 16 hours after the lunar ones. However, in any given spot on Earth, you can observe lunar eclipses more often than the solar kind because solar eclipses require a much more precise alignment of two bodies with the same apparent size than when the small moon enters the much larger shadow of the earth. Solar eclipses are therefore visible from much more limited areas on Earth than lunar ones. Their short and narrow umbral paths will most often meet the Earth only far from a stationary sky watcher while their repetitions wander from one pole of the earth to the other during a complete Saros series. Detecting the solar eclipse cycles by observation alone is therefore difficult, and their successful prediction implies a working mental model of the geometric relationships between the three performers of this celestial dance.

It is thus a testimony to the astronomical understanding of the Disk maker that the halfway mark for the 54 seasons or years before the return of the same lunar eclipse displays a sign which seems to indicate a solar eclipse.

Indeed, field 27 here shows a ram's head with curved horns, of a species known as Ovis aries platyra aegyptiaca. This species of ram appeared in Egypt around the time of the 12th Dynasty during the Middle Kingdom, or not long before the time of the Disk. See

This new type of ram became the emblem of the ancient but then newly promoted creator god Amun from Thebes. As they rose to power, the kings of the starting Theban Dynasty merged him with the all-Egyptian sun god to form Amun-Re and so made their patron the mightiest god in all Egypt. They also endowed him with the richest temples. The ceremonial avenue to the Amun temple in Luxor is still lined with lion sphinxes which represent Amun as protector of the king; these feature the same curved-horn ram heads as the sign on the Disk. Amun's richly decorated procession boat also displayed on both ends his ram’s head emblem with those same characteristic curved horns.



Although Amun-Re the sun god was visible to all, the name “Amun” meant “the hidden one”. The Egyptian priest and history-writer Manetho (around 280 BCE) interpreted that name as “concealed” or “concealment”. Because of the similarity of the ram’s “ba-a-a” sound with the word for the otherwise bird-like “ba-soul” of every human and god, this curved-horn ram of Amun also symbolized the “ba” of  the sun god Re and of the dead sun Osiris.


This double role of the ram symbol is a clue to the concealment of the sun because a “ba-soul” became independent of its owner’s body only after said owner’s death, or, in the case of the sun god, when he passed at least temporarily through the underworld as he did every night during his voyage from his sinking in the West back to his place of rising on the eastern horizon. The Disk maker’s placing  the ram-shaped soul of the hidden sun god at the midpoint of the Saros in field 27 may therefore allude to the sun’s temporary death or concealment in the solar eclipse midway through the depicted Saros cycle. An interpretation of the ram head as sign of a solar eclipse also explains its combination here with the “shield of darkness” which might otherwise seem out of place in this field of a still full moon in the Disk month.


The “ear of grain” next to the ram’s head appears to be an identifying attribute of the latter because all the several ram-headed gods, whether they had straight or curved horns, were also dispensers of fertility. That “ear of grain” conveys this idea and may here be the determinative which shows this particular ram’s head belonged to the fertility god and not just to a herd animal.


A solar eclipse in Disk field 27 also matches the “difficulties” in field 27 of the Senet gameboard. This would have reinforced for ancient believers in the power of numbers the proposed eclipse meaning of the ram’s head hidden in darkness.


The eclipse number 18 as number of darkness


The 18 years of this Saros eclipse cycle associate this number with darkness and may be the reason why the Disk maker stamped the “shield of darkness” sign 18 times on its path. The concept is the same as for the 19 sun-head impressions which correspond to the 19 three-season years of said head’s path up to the death field 58. A connection of 18 with darkness appears also in field 24 which is 18 fields after the beginning of time in field 6 and shows two “shields of darkness”, one on each side of the sign for the dark waters of the sky. Similarly, the 18th field of the Disk month, 28, includes a “shield of darkness” although the moon is at that time still almost full. This "darkness" sign in field 28 allows more than one interpretation, as you will see, but none of these exclude the others, and it seems the Disk maker delighted in using symbols which supplied multiple layers of interlocked meanings.

The Egyptian hieroglyph for "pig"

Moreover, you find this link with darkness again in field 36 here which is twice 18. As we saw in Part 3 of this series, this field is the place of "doom" where the head of a sacrificial "pig" gets dispatched to the land of the dead in the presence of the "T-shirt" and of the "beekeeper's glove" which we encountered earlier as a stand-in emblem for the "shield of darkness".

These symbols in field 36 fit therefore well into the pattern that multiples of 18 indicate darkness, just as three times 18, or 54, is the field of the moon-darkening eclipses predicted by the Saros. This same meaning of 18 as the number of darkness appears also to have guided the Egyptian artists who often represented the goddess of the night sky as a cow with 18 stars on her body.


The 56-year cycle of lunar standstills


In addition, for the last and longest of the lunar cycles on the Disk, the “strider” in field 56 did not only serve as a guide and destination marker for the blessed souls who arrived there free and clear from the heart-weighing in field 42. He also marked an important astronomical cycle in his own right when counted from field 1 as 56 years. This 56-year cycle of “lunar standstills” appears again in the 56-field length of the game path which remains after the removal of the first five fields that the “strider” had set apart as birthdays of the gods outside the normal flow of time. This 56-year “strider-step” over the entire cycle goes from the beginning of time in field 6 to again the same “strider” in field 6 after a complete turn around the remaining game path.


Lunar standstills are “moonstices” like the sun’s solstices, except that compared with the sun’s simple annual swing from its winter low to its summer high and back, with a few days of lingering at the extremes, the movements of the moon are more varied. The moon orbits the earth every 27.32 days in a plane which is tilted about 5.15 degrees against that of the earth’s 365.24-day orbit around the sun. The axis of the earth’s rotation around its poles is also tilted against the plane of its solar orbit, now by about 23.44 degrees and getting lower as part of a 41,000-year wobble from 24.5 to 22.1 degrees and back. At the time of the Disk, this tilt or “obliquity” amounted to about 23.9 degrees.


The interplay of these two tilts and orbital speeds causes the moon to cross the ecliptic twice a month in a shifting pattern, called “regression of the nodes”, which sometimes adds the moon orbit’s angle to that of the solar path and at other times subtracts it. This pattern repeats itself about every 18.6 years, and it returns closer to the same seasons and times of day after three of these cycles which add up to 55.8, or close to 56 years.


As seen from Earth, once during every one of these 18.6 year cycles the moon rises to its greatest height in the sky, about five degrees higher than the sun ever does, and continues for over a year to reach this height once a month. A couple of weeks later in those same months the moon swings to the other side of the ecliptic, and during that time it rises over our horizon along its lowest arc, about five degrees lower than the sun at its midwinter solstice. This combination of highest high and lowest low is called the moon’s major standstill. Nine years after each major standstill comes the minor standstill when the moon reaches for several consecutive months a much lower maximum height for that part of the cycle, about five degrees lower than the midsummer sun, and a correspondingly larger minimum arc at about five degrees above that of the midwinter sun, or a lowest high and highest low.


This 18.6-year pattern and its 56-year triple cycle remained unknown to modern astronomers until one of them, Gerald S. Hawkins, rediscovered both while pondering the meanings of the 56 evenly spaced holes along the periphery of the so-called Aubrey Circle in the oldest part of the Stonehenge monument in southern England. A few years after having published his astronomical interpretation of this Aubrey Circle in his book “Stonehenge Decoded” as a representation of this standstill cycle and possible eclipse calculator, he explained on pages 67 and 68 of that book:


“Modern-day astronomers do not go out to observe the moonrise year by year. The 56-year pattern, based on the 18.6-year moon cycle, was not known to them until it was uncovered at Stonehenge. But the cycle is an important one humanistically. During years of the high moon, every 18 or 19 years according to the cycle, the winter nights are brighter and the moonlight lasts longer. (…) Because the moon affects the oceans, extreme low tides recur after 56 years. If an ancient culture looked on the moon as important either in agriculture or hunting, fertility or death rites, the 18.6-year cycle and the 56-year pattern would ultimately be discovered. 


Hawkins had proposed in his initial description of this standstill cycle that for ease of working within the whole years of a solar calendar, people would have divided this cycle into segments of 19, 19, and 18 years. The sequence of major and minor standstills within those 19, 19, and 18 year divisions of the entire cycle became then 9 - 10 - 9 - 10 - 9 - 9 years.


The Disk displays this 56-year sequence on its 5 + 56-field path where the moon transitions between major and minor standstill periods are clearly framed by the “forward arrows” in a way which would be hard to explain as random coincidence. Starting at the 18-year part of the cycle, the Disk maker presented the standstill sequence in the form 9 - 9 - 9 - 10 - 9 -10 years. Then he or she superimposed the full cycles 18, 19, 19 with stamps of the “Lady” sign, as shown below:

This image of both Disk sides shows how the "goose flock arrows" frame the transitions between major and minor standstill periods, with an exception only where the "arrow" expected for field 31 appears in 27 instead.

That exception is easy to understand. The Disk maker likely felt obliged to remove the “forward arrow” from field 31 which starts the second side of the Disk and carries one of the “birth-death-rebirth rosettes”.

The “Initiation” in this Disk field must have imposed a delay for the simulated death and visit to the otherworld in this ceremony, or even for the later baptism into which it evolved. This delay survives in the Game of the Goose where the corresponding field 31 of the “Well” required the player to stay there until another gamepiece arrived to replace that captive one.

It would therefore have been contradictory to place into this same field of pause and renewal also one of the “forward” arrows which would have whisked the player’s gamepiece away without having to go through this important ritual.


The rosette emblem of Osiris in field 31 seems to have trumped the “goose arrow” of his father Geb as an even more powerful substitute since the “rosette” symbolized a complete renewal for the rest of the path whereas the “goose arrow” provided only the smaller benefit of gaining an advance of a few fields.


After so removing the “arrow” from 31, the Disk maker moved it to field 27 instead where it announced the arrival of the high moon goddess in field 28 and rewarded the player with its advance for approaching her, just as the “arrow” in 14 preceded the first major-minor standstill transition in 15.


The “arrow” in 14 as herald of the moon transition in 15 is mirrored two full cycles later by the “arrow” in 53 which follows the switch in 52 and so brackets this pair of transitions symmetrically. Both these “bracket arrows” also share their fields with the only two occurrences of the sign that resembles the above shown Egyptian hieroglyph Aa24. Here again, the Egyptian meaning of “weaving warp being stretched between two uprights” for this hieroglyph fits these bracketing locations because they tie together, or "join", these two cycles of lunar back-and-forth weaving from just before their beginning to just after their end.


The “bracket arrow” in 14 seems to have been enough to identify and announce the transition point in 15, but its counterpart transition in 52 required more elaborate fencing in. This was the field in which the “falcon” went upside down and which became in the Goose Game the “prison”. The bad luck inherent in such a field numbered with a multiple of 13 and encumbered with its falcon-killing baggage may have been the reason why an additional pair of “arrows” guards it at a respectful distance of two fields before and two fields after 52. Such extra fencing may have appeared unnecessary for the more friendly field 15 which otherwise mirrored in this cycle the dangerous field 52.


The 18 + 19 + 19 = 56-year standstill cycle of the triple moon goddess


The 18 - 19 - 19 field distances between three of the “Lady” images within the 56-year lunar cycle, in fields 16, 35, and 54, show that these “Ladies” must be moon goddesses, or aspects of a moon goddess, because they mark and define those long-term motions of the moon and preside here over the three parts of the 56-year moon standstill cycle. Their shared role in punctuating this lunar standstill pattern identifies these three “Ladies” further as the Triple Goddess of the waxing, full, and waning moon.


The first member of this triad appears in field 16 at left together with the “bough of life”, the “dove”, the “ear of grain”, and the “fish”. These symbols of fertility, and the location of this “Lady” as the first marker for this cycle identify her as the spring maiden of the waxing moon who brings life, as the dove goddess of renewal and rejuvenation, and as the goddess of love and fertility in the air, on land, and in the water. In the Classical Greek pantheon this job description matched an amalgam of Artemis and Aphrodite -- another subdivision for one aspect of the original Triple Goddess.


The attribute of the “lunar Lady” in field 35 at left is unfortunately damaged beyond recognition, but the season after spring is summer, and the “sun head with zodiac” pair which shares this field with her fits this season. This context suggests that the “Lady” in this field is the full-moon mature summer matron and sky mother and sometimes also mother of the spring maiden, as in the Greek myth of the maiden Kore born to Demeter the grain-and earth-mother where Kore later becomes Persephone, the queen of the underworld.



Field 54 at left shows us the "Lady" of the underworld whom we met above as the patroness of the Saros eclipses and who stands here appropriately for winter. This third aspect of the moon goddess is often described as an old woman, crone, or hag, or even a dangerous witch such as Hecate. The “down arrow” and moon-darkening “eclipse” signs in this field are perfect matches for these dark aspects of the goddess, her waning moon, and also for winter as season of darkness which keeps the sun’s path and its warming rays down.



The distances between the “Lady” signs match the 18 - 19 -19 year division of the overall 56-year standstill cycle. Each one is marked with a “Lady” stamp at its beginning and end in fields that evoke this ancient “Triple Goddess”: the spring maiden in 16, the mature summer matron in 35, and the underworld’s winter witch in 54.


The poet and mythographer Robert Graves had described this Triple Goddess in his book “The White Goddess” and later made her one of the guiding themes in his collection of and comments on ”The Greek Myths”. Some academics accused Graves of having made up this split of the goddess into three separate aspects. However, the three “lunar Ladies” from the standstill cycle on the Disk now vindicate him as well as those of his neopagan followers who claim to uphold an ancient tradition by worshiping their goddess in this triple form. The Disk shows that Graves’ research and those worshipers’ intuition were right, and that already the ancient Cretans experienced their moon goddess not only as one but also as three.


A few scholars of ancient mythologies have tried to match these three generic aspects of the Classical Greek Triple Goddess with actual goddesses from pharaonic Egypt. For instance, the analytical psychologist Erich Neumann proposed in his book “The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype” that “the unity of Hathor, Nut, and Isis encompasses all goddesses”. However, there seems to be no record that the ancient Egyptians thought of them in those terms, and the selection of goddesses for this triad appears somewhat arbitrary since several others would have been equally qualified, such as Bast, Sekhmet, and Neith, to name just one example of a made-up triad which would fit into the same ready-made mold.


The “Lady” in field 28 at left is then the high moon goddess.  Her distance of 12 fields from the first of the "Ladies", the one in field 16, as well as the "command mace" in her field, suggest that she rules over all the twelve months and therefore also over the entire cycle of the other three “lunar Ladies”. She bundles the aspects of these together and represents them all, the way a year is not part of its seasons but includes them all without suppressing their individual existences.

Her field number further matches her central position because it marks half the length of the full 56-year cycle .


Add to these distinctions that 28 is also a traditional lunar number. The moon has up to 28 days of illumination per month, and there were 28 “lunar mansions”, or stretches of sky along its orbit, which allowed sky watchers to measure its daily motion through the sky. Moreover, for ancient number mystics, 28 was one of the rare “perfect” numbers which are composed from the sums of their divisors and were therefore believed to have special numerological powers. The Disk maker was quite likely aware of this mathemagical importance because people had begun to explore the number world long before the Greek Pythagoras (about 569 to about 495 BCE) claimed some of their much earlier discoveries as his own.


As for the individual members of the Triple Goddess above, it is hard to connect this “High Lady 28” with any specific goddess in Egypt. Several of the many sky-and-moon goddesses there reigned as “Queen of Heaven” and had overlapping functions at different times and in different regions. In the later Greek mythology, however, her role is a good match for Hera, the sister and wife of Zeus whom Graves identified with the pre-Hellenic Great Goddess. She had been “nursed by the seasons” which Graves interprets as meaning that she was a goddess of the calendar year. This is the same meaning as the one conveyed on the Disk by her distance of twelve fields from the first of the “triple lunar Ladies”. Graves also suggested that Hera appeared in threefold aspects, as another clear example of the Triple Goddess united in one:


“Hera, being the goddess of the vegetative year, spring, summer, and autumn, (also symbolized by the new, full, and old moon) was worshipped at Stymphalus as Child, Bride, and Widow”.


The signs in 28 next to the “commanding Lady” show a similar connection with the three seasons of the ancient Cretan year. The “shield of darkness” stands for winter, the “bough of life” is an image of spring, the season of new life, and the sun head is an obvious label for summer.


This prominence of the Triple Goddess and her attributes on the Disk, compared with her relative absence in those specific forms and relationships from the ancient Egyptian records, suggest that although she probably drew on general Egyptian influences, her three-in-one form probably originated in Crete and passed on from there to the Greeks who further subdivided her aspects.


Neither the lunar standstill cycle nor its Triple Goddess had been rediscovered at the time Dr. Pernier excavated the Disk, so their presences on it are two more proofs of its authenticity, in addition to the then still unknown sun-head sign. The only other example of this sign turned up several decades later on a bronze axe found in Arkalochori on Crete and so confirmed its existence in early Crete which Dr. Pernier could not have foretold.


Said sun-head on the Disk also attests the Disk maker's early knowledge of yet another lunar cycle. Current histories of science ascribe this "Metonian" cycle to the much later Classical Greek Meton who wrote its first surviving description in 432 BCE. This was the cycle of 19 years between the "meetings of sun and moon" when the midwinter solstice coincided again with the appearance of a new moon. Their new meeting completed the "Great Year" which defined the lifespan of the sun before it died and was reborn for the next cycle. We will examine this cycle in the next part of this series, and how the career of the sun-head along the path on the Disk anticipates several key elements from the life, death, and resurrection of the sun-like Christ, as told in the much later Gospels.


Read the entire series of this article:
Part 1: The case for the Phaistos Disk as an ancient game board, 12/1/2012,

Part 2: The reconstructed ancient labyrinth gameboard and its chart of the northern sky. 3/5/2013,,

Part 3: The race between the light and dark sides of the moon on the Phaistos gameboard. 6/1/2013,

Part 4: Eclipses and lunar standstill cycles on the Disk, 9/1/2013

Part 5: Parallels between the path of the "sun head" and the Life of Christ 1600 years before Christ,
to be published in the 12/1/2013 issue of Popular Archaeology.

Part 6: The Labyrinth gameboard as template for the layout of Solomon's Temple,
to be published in the 3/1/2014 issue of Popular Archaeology.

Part 7: The evolution of the game on the Labyrinth board into Chess,
to be published in the 6/1/2014 issue of Popular Archaeology


A complete reading of this new interpretation of the Phaistos Disk is about to be published in Peter Aleff’s upcoming book “Solomon’s Sky: The Tapestry of Heaven from the Phaistos Disk

For the next 30 days, interested readers may access the online copy of the entire book at  

All illustrations not otherwise credited are © 1987 to 2013 by Peter Aleff and are reproduced here with his permission. Cover Photo, Top Left: Detail of the Phaistos Disk. Wikimedia Commons


Peter Aleff started inquiring about history and mythology even before he learned to read, and he has continued ever since. He studied history and philosophy at the University of Basel in Switzerland as well as mathematics and the dismal science of economics. Then he decided to earn a living and took technical courses at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers in Paris, France, to begin a career in engineering and managing manufacturing companies. He worked first in France and then in several American states where he was awarded three U.S. patents for some of his inventions.

In his free time, he researched in particular the history and meanings of board games and wrote in 1982 the rough but essentially entire draft outline of the present story about the Phaistos Disk under the title "The Labyrinth Game", then re-created that ancient game for modern users. Over the next three decades, during a busy work life but in anticipation of some day finding the time to compile and publish this fascinating story, he collected relevant books and articles and notes to flesh out the context and ramifications of the information found on the Disk. Then he pulled it all together in "Solomon's Sky: The Tapestry of Heaven from the Phaistos Disk
" for your surprise and delight.


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