Gerald Lange wrote:
> Most of the work on Phaistos seems to have been spent in deciphering
> the language but I found some information regarding measurements,
> depth of impression, etc., that seem ignored (or perhaps are just
> thought to be taken for granted).
Yes: it seems that it is much easier to come up with a "translation" of the
disk than to do serious studies on it.
Of course, studies on the physical accident of the disk require direct
access and manipulation of the disk, which is only allowed to a very limited
number of scholars.
> If so, has anyone ever suggested an even bigger step, but perhaps not
> an unnatural bump forward - that this was made in a sandwich mould?
> This would only require secondary "casting." This guess made on other
> measurements and certain moulding characteristics (stretch and
> planing) that seemingly are in evidence here.
I find that one of the most fascinating features of the disk is corrections:
it has been found that the scribe apparently made several errors, which
(s)he corrected while the clay was still soft.
Sometimes the errors were caught immediately, so just the area of a single
sign is involved in the correction; in other cases, the error was detected
much later, so the correction involved many more signs, because the scribe
had to delete also correct sequences and re-punch them in a stretched space,
in order to make room for the forgotten signs.
I think that interesting deductions can be made from these corrections;
e.g., I noticed that the initial sign "warrior's head" has been forgotten in
more than the 50% of cases, and it had to be laboriously re-inserted later
on. I don't know what this means, but it got to mean something, e.g. that
the sign was silent, or that it was only used in that particular kind of
document (which, maybe, the scribe did not write usually).
There is an interesting book by Louis Godard which deals in deep detail with
=sr_1_2_13/002-5490203-6099205 (there are also English and French edition,
but I could not find them on Amazon).
My impression is that such an inaccuracy, while acceptable for a single
copy, would not have been tolerated if the document served as a master to
"print" several copies. Moreover, according to some technological arguments
that I have read, punches hard and resistible enough to allow multiple use
on clay should have been in metal, probably gold. Now, while it is
plausible that the scribes had enough gold to build the tip of a few
punches, it is less likely that they could afford a 14 centimeters solid
ingot to print the whole disk.
> Assuming that this is even a possibility, this might lead to another
> question. At which point did numismatic or (architectural/pottery)
> techniques (such as stamping, casting) veer away (or develop
> separately) from language reproduction (writing)? Various forms of
> replication for coinage, medallions, for example, existed long before
> attempts were made to mechanize writing, China, Korea, Europe. (?)
I think that punches to impress signs on soft clay are as old as writing
itself. Even in ancient times, it was customary that a chieftain or an
official (who, probably, was illiterate himself) signed documents using a
sigil (often carved in a ring) which bare his name. Lots of such sigils
have been found for several cultures.
According to some, such punches are even *older* than writing, and are the
origin of it. A theory says that Sumer writing originated from sealed
"bulls" of clay which contained three-dimensional tokens representing the
goods being transported or stored. In order to count the tokens, the bull
had to be broken. In a second time, it became customary to impress each
token on the soft bull while inserting it: in this way, it became possible
to "read" the content of the bull without breaking it. The actual tokens
contained in the bull soon became redundant and were eventually suppressed.