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Phaistos Disc declared as fake by scholar

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  Quote Leonardo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Phaistos Disc declared as fake by scholar
    Posted: 13-Jul-2008 at 06:38
From The Times
July 12, 2008

Phaistos Disc declared as fake by scholar

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Greek%20authorities%20will%20not%20allow%20the%20disc%20to%20be%20examined%20outside%20its%20case

Greek authorities will not allow the disc to be examined outside its case

Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent
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Some say that its 45 mysterious symbols are the words of a 4,000-year-old poem, or perhaps a sacred text. Others contest that they are a magical inscription, a piece of ancient music or the world's oldest example of punctuation.

But now an American scholar believes that the markings on the Phaistos Disc, one of archaeology's most famous unsolved mysteries, mean nothing at all — because the disc is a hoax.

Jerome Eisenberg, a specialist in faked ancient art, is claiming that the disc and its indecipherable text is not a relic dating from 1,700BC, 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.

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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.”

Each side of the disc bears a bar composed of four or five dots which one scholar described as “the oldest example of the use of natural punctuation”.

Dr Eisenberg believes that it was added to lead scholars astray — “another oddity to puzzle them, and a common trick among forgers”. The Greek authorities have refused to give Dr Eisenberg permission to examine the disc outside its display case, arguing that it is too delicate to be moved.

His misgivings could be laid to rest by a thermoluminescence test — a standard scientific dating test — but the authorities had refused, he said. In Rome, this test cast doubt recently on the provenance of another iconic archeological object.

Experts are now contending that the Capitoline Wolf, the famous bronze sculpture of a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, founders of the city of Rome, dates from the Middle Ages, and not Etruscan times, as long has been held.

The Capitoline Museum's website says that the statue, known as Lupa, or she-wolf, is from the 5th century BC and was donated to the museum in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV.

However, in a front-page article this week in the Rome daily a Repubblica, Adriano La Regina, who for decades headed the national archaeological office for Rome, suggested that the museum was reluctant to release test results indicating that the bronze was medieval.

“The new information about the epoch of the Capitoline bronze has been held back for about a year now,” La Regina wrote. He added that the tests had produced a “very precise indication in the 13th century”.

The 30in (75cm) bronze is the centrepiece of a museum room named after it, and postcards and T-shirts with its image are popular Rome souvenirs.

Claudio Parisi Presicce, the museum's director, insisted that his institution was not trying to hide data that could subtract centuries from the she-wolf's antiquity, saying that the data “aren't definitive yet”.

 
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  Quote Flipper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Jul-2008 at 09:53
But, the Phaestos disc is not the only one having those symbols. There are about 300 items that have been found all around Creta having such symbols.


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  Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Jul-2008 at 10:52
Exactly, Flipper. Clay tablets have been found all over Crete with evidence of these Minoan hieroglyphs. This isn't definitive evidence for its authenticity, but I think multiple attestation is pretty reliable in this case. These clay tablets have only survived because of accidental firing, because the Minoans used wet clay for records. The Phaestos disk is but one of many potential clay tablets which haven't survived today. I don't think it is a forgery. Oh and I'm hoping it isn't too - I wrote about it at length in my Ancient History Exam Smile
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  Quote JDavis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Jul-2008 at 19:10
It is certainly a peculiar item and I echo the fact that I would be saddened if it turned out to be a fake. However, the museum needs to allow these tests to put aside any potential doubts. After all, none of us want to use fakes as part of our analysis. 
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  Quote Nick Canuck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2008 at 22:27
Hi people. My understanding is that the 'hieroglyphs' on the Phaestos Disk are in fact unique to it. There are other Minoan writing systems which have been unearthed and analyzed - some of which remain a mystery - but the markings on that disk are like nothing else. I couldn't claim to know WHO faked it, but I'm 99% sure this item IS a fake. (Ironically my friend came back from there and gave me a key chain of the disk which I still use LOL) It fits in rather well with what has become something of a cottage industry on Crete, the manufacture of fake artifacts.
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  Quote Mercury_Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Sep-2008 at 18:26
Alright, I'm calling bullshit on this guy's analysis. The reason it could of been well cut and baked as a permanent record for any number of reasons, from finical to pride, religious to astrological, maybe even legal. It could of been a long standing official notice, say a law. Some stuff needs to be permanent. 
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  Quote JDavis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Sep-2008 at 18:53
I am certainly not sold on the idea that it is a fake for many reasons, but are there other instances from this period where they used clay and baked it for permanent records rather than carving it into stone? If not then your criticism is even more speculative.

I find the disc absolutely fascinating and have pondered over it for hours. It would be truly tragic if it turned out to be a fake. However, we shouldn't allow our biases to interfere with the evidence. Perform the test and put the issue at rest so there need not be any further speculation.
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  Quote red clay Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Sep-2008 at 21:01
Originally posted by Nick Canuck

Hi people. My understanding is that the 'hieroglyphs' on the Phaestos Disk are in fact unique to it. There are other Minoan writing systems which have been unearthed and analyzed - some of which remain a mystery - but the markings on that disk are like nothing else. I couldn't claim to know WHO faked it, but I'm 99% sure this item IS a fake. (Ironically my friend came back from there and gave me a key chain of the disk which I still use LOL) It fits in rather well with what has become something of a cottage industry on Crete, the manufacture of fake artifacts.
 
 
Actually it depends on where you read about it.  If, as it seems you have been there, you read the bs on Ancient Scripts homepage, it's a mystery" no other like it".  Scroll onto the next page where they have copied museum text and you'll see where several scholars have identified some symbols as being Linear script A.  "A" has not been deciphered as yet.  Just because something hasn't been decoded doesn't make it a fake.  Also, it was excavated, not purchased on the "black market" or in some other shady fashion.  The field notes written by the original discoverers of this piece seem sound.
 
What could be at work here is a combination of intellectual bias and modern nationalism.
There seems to be an effort among some to discredit much of what was discovered prior to WWII.  Blaming lack of technology, political pressures etc.
 
I haven't seen anything ironclad about Dr. Eisenberg's work or anything to separate it from any other speculative work.  And considering modern political pressures I would have to question the good doctors motivations.
 
 
 
 
 
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  Quote red clay Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Sep-2008 at 21:13
For me, this has a familiar ring to it.  Mercury_dawn may also see it.  There is a site in West Virginia which produced an artifact that has since been called "the Grave Creek Stone" The controversey is similar in as much as the script was unknown and called into question the prevailing ideas of the day.
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  Quote Nick Canuck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Sep-2008 at 00:51
I will undermine my own argument here Ouch by sharing Rodney Castleden's  ("Minoans: Life in Bronze Age Crete" Routledge, 1990) insights:
 
"The signs at first glance appear to be completely different from other scripts . . . are often for this reason explained away as a foreign curiosity. . . There are comparable signs cut into an offering table at Mallia, and engraved on a bronze axe . . . in the sacred cave of Arkalochori."
 
I'd like to see these other inscriptions to compare just how similar they are. I'm afraid I remain skeptical of the Phaistos Disk's authenticity. Which is a shame, because there is no denying just how outrageously "exotic" it is. You have to love those heads with the mohawk hair!
 
It has been suggested that these (and other Cretan scripts) may have a Luwian or early Syrian provenance, but I know nothing about them and can't comment.
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  Quote JDavis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Sep-2008 at 04:42
Originally posted by red clay

 
I haven't seen anything ironclad about Dr. Eisenberg's work or anything to separate it from any other speculative work.  And considering modern political pressures I would have to question the good doctors motivations.
 


I am confused about this statement. Could you clarify for me what motivation you are speaking? The artifact is in the hands of Greek authorities and this is a US scholar, so I am confused on this point.
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  Quote Mercury_Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Sep-2008 at 04:46
 The Grave Creek Tablet almost certainly has to be a fake, I have never seen anything like that around here, and I've ducked my head into most of the caves around here, and no other archaeologist I know ever found anything remotely similar. I first learned about it as a kid volunteering for a dig in Ohio, and I must of scratched a rock in my square, cause when I unearthed it, it had a Nike Swoosh from ground that was 8000 years old! I swore up and down the Indians liked Nike, and he showed me a picture of the Grave Creek Tablet.

Now, why can I support this disk and not the grave creek tablet? Well, for starters, the mound building civilizations of my region, from Moundsville to Meadowcroft, have never shown any, and I repeat any, evidence of having a written language. Pictographs, you bet ya. However, thier trade relations didn't appear to extend more that 200 kilometers at most, and this is because of the Jade found. The communities had basic agriculture, nothing impressive, and may very well of developed the concept on their own, or as some theories suggest, brought it with them as Mesoamerican colonist from several thousand miles away.
What enterprise, nobility, or complex warfare or economics system they had just wasn't enough in my mind to warrant the need to dabble in some kind of tangible record keeping, everything they needed was right there, in their immediate proximity.

Now take the Minoans. We know they engaged in Agriculture. We know they were traders. Ships are complex objects, as are palaces..... and a earthquake prone island is going to require repairs on buildings. They had a king, and therefore, likely something resembling a nobility. Now, as to their depth and diversity of religion, or concepts of taxation.... I am not going to speculate beyond saying they had SOMETHING, and that in regards to these two things, people tend to keep records...... especially the nobility, and really especially the king. Why? Cause some people are not honest, and some people like to prove they are honest if accuse of dishonesty.

Obviously, this disk can say anything, or could of been made for any reason. But to claim they didn't know HOW to bake a disk is some deep silliness. It appears to be a extraordinary object, and with extraordinary objects people take extraordinary measures in craftsmanship, display, and preservation.  A good example would be a kings crown.  Imagine if some futuristic anarchist commune unearthed one in the remains of some long abandoned and forgotten city like London? Would they be having this same conversation? I say, men of all ages were pretty inventive, but only a few cared to show it. Dig around in the ground long enough, and you'll find some pretty odd and yet amazing stuff that doesn't fit anyone's worldview. I think a 'baked' disk with known hieroglyphs isn't to fantastic, or a stretch on the technological capabilities of the Minoans. I mean, geeze, we discovered the people of Rhodes built Analog Computers during Roman Republic times, you have to allow for ingenuity and complexity in the ancient world.

As to testing this.... I remember that crescent shaped hole they took out of that Neaderthal bone, wasn't to thrilled about that.... had they waited a few years, they could of came up with a far less evasive method. If it's fragile, then let the preservation of this disk be our top concern. We can test it remotely someday, I'm sure of this.
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  Quote Patrinos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Sep-2008 at 10:49
"Parthenon declared as fake by scholar"...

Impressive quote,huh?
If I make an article with this title, and declare myself a scholar, will I be famous?Smile

I agree that we have to doubt about everything, but to be  proffesional "dissenters" is meaningless. 
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  Quote JDavis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Sep-2008 at 16:18

Let’s take a look at the argument.

 

First, Jerome Eisenberg Ph.D. is a specialist in determining fake artifacts. He has associations with world class museums all over the world. I can find nothing wrong with his credentials or motivation. Here is a quote from Spartan, “Dr Eisenberg is widely respected as an authority on forgeries in ancient art and has lectured and presented papers internationally on the subject since 1968.”

 

His argument begins with the assertion that “Pernier was desperate to impress his colleagues”. This motivation for creating a forgery is the weakest part of his argument as no evidence is given for this assumption. I always think assumptions are a dangerous ground to tread. I can’t buy this part of his argument without some evidential support it is simply too speculative. If it is ever determined the disc is a fake then let people speculate on motive all they want.

 

 As for his evaluation, one of the main problems for Eisenburg is ‘The forger has misunderstood the harmony of an overall ancient design and of its individual elements.’ Apparantly Dr. Eisenberg uses a stylistic criteria to determine forgeries. Of the 32 anomalies which indicate forgery, there are 9 present in the Phaistos Disc. There certainly is a lack of harmony with the disc as scholars have pointed to both linear A and B, Luwian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Anatolian, and other sources as possible interpretive models for the script.

 

Some symbols have models elsewhere, but Eisenberg concludes that these were well known at the time of the forgery. Nowhere has there been an artifact found using a similar language model. This is a bit disturbing and raises some red flags but not in itself conclusive. Uniqueness does not quantitate forgery, but it should be included in the overall skepticism.

 

Technical issues include its baked state and smoothed edges among other elements. This is certainly substantive. Unique items I can agree occur, however, unique processes to create unique items triggers alarms. I will pose the question again, when has there occurred a firing of a clay relic to create permanence as opposed to inscribing in stone? This problem poses some rather large and looming questions.

 

I have not dealt with a large number of clay artifacts, so let me pose another question to those who may be more informed. How many times has soft clay been inscribed on both sides and then fired accidentally or otherwise? This brings up some curious questions for me.

 

As to the testing, here is a quote from Dr. Eisenberg:

 

“Dating by thermoluminescence would not really damage the disc, as it would require drilling a small hole or two on the edge that could afterward be infilled so that it would be virtually invisible. I would be willing to pay for the tests to be made by two independent laboratories, preferably one from France and the other from Germany. Hopefully, the international publicity already ensuing from my article and the forthcoming Phaistos Disc Conference [beginning October 31st at the Society of Antiquaries in London] will pressure the Greek authorities to finally test the disc.

At the present time I cannot even examine the disc in hand at the museum. The director of the Herakleion Museum e-mailed to me in August 2007: ‘In reply to your e-mail of July 25, 2007, we would like to inform you that unfortunately we are not able to satisfy your request to examine the Phaistos disc and the inscribed Arkalochori axe. Specifically, the inscribed Archaolochori axe is encased and stored, whereas the Phaistos disc because of its uniqueness is considered as non movable…’ Of course, if the disc were to be tested and it did turn out to be a forgery, it would be a great blow and an embarrassment to the Greeks and to Crete and the museum, as the disk is one of the greatest archaeological ‘finds’ of Crete and an important attraction not only for scholars, but especially for tourists.”

 

Is the H. Museum really concerned about “tourists” here? I understand the need to create funds to run these institutions, but when we put money ahead of our scholarship we are treading on a slippery slope. I can understand hesitation and extreme measures to protect our valuable artifacts, but obstinance is not something that bodes well for scholarship.

 

I am not convinced that the disc is a fake. However, there is sufficient doubt about its authenticity that requires resolution. If this cannot be resolved then the disc will be relegated to a tourist only artifact and be removed from any serious consideration in scholarship. This may satisfy the museum but would still be a tragedy for the scholarly community. There is a conference scheduled for the end of next month to debate this issue. We should see a great deal more evidence presented and many of the details which are lacking at this time. If anyone can obtain more specific details from Minerva magazine as to Eisenberg’s specifics, I’d love to see them.

 

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  Quote Mercury_Dawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Sep-2008 at 05:43
I am not convinced that the disc is a fake. However, there is sufficient doubt about its authenticity that requires resolution.

I agree with you on everything except this. I recognize it could very well be a fake, but drilling holes into priceless cultural artifacts cause you have to know now.... is NOT something I support. I expect this mentality out of a seven year old. Wait till we have a non-evasive technique for testing it. Until then, it's on the table for investigation irregardless of any person or group's claim to the otherwise, no one has the right to revoke legitimacy in a uncertain case, especially such a suspect uncertainty as your own analysis has shown. Theories come and go, but drill damage don't!

 The disk is well protected, there will be a tomorrow to test it out, be it in our lifetime or not. In the time being, we must rest on the fact the approved archaeologist excavated it for the time being as it's claim of legitimacy, though by all means, suspect and conjecture all you want, they make for good what if documentaries and books for a lazy Saturday, and is good for enticing interest in history in general.
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  Quote JDavis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Sep-2008 at 14:11
Please! The desire to have resolution to know the truth is somehow juvenile in your eyes? What is it then scholars strive for everyday? Nobody is asking to destroy the artifact or impair it in any fashion. This test is routinely done around the globe with little thought but all of a sudden it is no longer acceptable for this one artifact?

To me what will be  greater tragedy than a couple of holes nobody will EVER notice is relegating this artifact to a stage prop. There has been sufficient doubt raised that anyone who uses it for any historical analysis will no longer be taken seriously. So lets keep it as a tourist attraction as they won't know about the controversy and continue to pay their fees to see the famous disc in hopes that someday a lesser invasive technique might be discovered.

Nobody is asking to do anything to the disc that will impair its beauty or value to mankind. I completely agree that we do not rush into situations which can cause harm to artifacts, but I do not see the rationale for your obstinance here. If the procedure is as described and the small holes in the sides are filled with similar / same material to where it will be unnoticeable how does that impair the disc? If this procedure is done all the time and we have trained experts who know and understand the preservation of an artifact performing the test, where is the devastation? I am not saying that my stomach doesn't cringe at the thought of anyone drilling into an artifact. However, in this case where there may be a very real fraud taking place the larger tragedy is to ignore it.

I do not think that a hoax makes for good history. If I want drama  I'll tune in to a reality TV show. Healthy debates are wonderful and we can all benefit but history misrepresented doesn't advance our understanding it only propagates ignorance.
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  Quote Nick Canuck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Sep-2008 at 17:59
I was going through my shelves and came across a book I'd forgotten I owned, H.E.L. Mellersh's "The Destruction of Knossos" (B&N 1970). Here's what he has to say about the disk:
"All attempts to fit it into the evolution of Minoan writing have failed, and it is now regarded as a fortuitous import, probably from Anatolia, or the best effort of some ingenious Minoan scribe with a passion for experiment and an esoteric knowledge. Whether it was an experimenting scribe or some innocent but enquiringly minded sailor importing a souvenir, this particular individual certainly caused more mental exertion three and a half millennia later than he can ever have envisaged."
OK, his comments aren't particularly helpful. Confused
One thing we haven't discussed it the technique involved in the creation of the disk. Aren't the glyphs produced by a stamping device, imprinted with each glyph? Are there any other examples of this early printing technique in the ancient Mediterranean or Middle East? Wait a minute of course there are cylinder seals. (I read an interesting theory that the cylinder seals found in Crete may have been worn around the neck and used in commercial transactions as a kind of 'credit card.') Any comments?
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  Quote red clay Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Sep-2008 at 18:11
Originally posted by Nick Canuck

I was going through my shelves and came across a book I'd forgotten I owned, H.E.L. Mellersh's "The Destruction of Knossos" (B&N 1970). Here's what he has to say about the disk:
"All attempts to fit it into the evolution of Minoan writing have failed, and it is now regarded as a fortuitous import, probably from Anatolia, or the best effort of some ingenious Minoan scribe with a passion for experiment and an esoteric knowledge. Whether it was an experimenting scribe or some innocent but enquiringly minded sailor importing a souvenir, this particular individual certainly caused more mental exertion three and a half millennia later than he can ever have envisaged."
OK, his comments aren't particularly helpful. Confused
One thing we haven't discussed it the technique involved in the creation of the disk. Aren't the glyphs produced by a stamping device, imprinted with each glyph? Are there any other examples of this early printing technique in the ancient Mediterranean or Middle East? Wait a minute of course there are cylinder seals. (I read an interesting theory that the cylinder seals found in Crete may have been worn around the neck and used in commercial transactions as a kind of 'credit card.') Any comments?
 
 
Nick, stampings in soft clay have been used since man started actively producing clay articles, be they vessels or tablets.  Just about every culture in the Med. basin used them and globally you find the same frequency of use.
 
 
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  Quote JDavis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Sep-2008 at 23:15
I don't think the stamping itself raised any alarms from what I read. Although I am still curious if anyone has ever seen a clay artifact stamped on both sides? That to me seems very peculiar. 
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  Quote Nick Canuck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Sep-2008 at 03:41

Hi folks! I don't think of the stamping issue as bearing on its authenticity so much as simply being fascinating on its own.  I do know that 'stamps' - to use the term in the broadest sense - have been used to decorate clay vessels since time immemorial. But using them to imprint meaningful symbols, hieroglyphs or letters I think is fairly rare, yes? Or am I mistaken about this?

In terms of discussing its authenticity, I think the best course is to subject the disk to the thermoluminescence test mentioned earlier to add some concrete information to this debate - the damage to the artifact really is minimal and after all it is just a man-made object, not a sacred vessel handed down from the gods!
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