Counting lunar eclipses using the Phaistos Disk

This paper* concerns itself with a unique fired-clay disk, found by Luigi Pernier in 1908 within the Minoan “palace” of Phaistos (aka Faistos), on the Greek island of Crete. Called the Phaistos Disk, its purpose or meaning has been interpreted many times, largely seen as either (a) a double-sided text in the repeated form of a spiral and outer circle written using an unknown pictographic language stamped in the clay or (b) as an astronomical device, record or handy reference. We provide a calendric interpretation based on the simplest lunar calendars known to apply in Minoan times, finding the Disk to be (a) an elegant solution to predicting repeated eclipses within the Saros period and (b) an observation that the Metonic is just one lunar year longer, and true to the context of the Minoan culture of that period.

*First Published on 26 May 2017

Figure 1. The location of Phaistos Palace atop a commanding hill in the middle of the fertile Massara valley in southern Crete. The Phaistos Disk was discovered in 1908 in chamber 8 of the northeast wing of the “Old Palace” (pre-1700 BCE) as per above diagram inserted from Balistier, 2000, 5.
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Planetary Resonances with the Moon

Readers of my article "Megalithic application of numeric time differences" will be familiar with the finding that in 32 lunar months there are almost exactly 945 days, leading to the incredibly accurate approximation (one part in 45000!) for the lunar month of 945/32 = 29.53125 days.

In the previous article on Seascale I noticed that 36 lunar months (three solar years) divided by 32 lunar months is the Pythagorean tone of 9/8. This led me to important thoughts regarding the tuning matrix of the Moon within the periods of the three outer planets, since the synod of Jupiter divided by the lunar year of 12 lunar months is the same tone, the tone that on “holy mountains” of Ernest G. McClain’s ancient tuning theory. Such tones are only found between two tonal numbers separated by two perfect fifths of 3/2, since 3/2 x 3/2 = 2.25 which, normalised to the octave of 1 to 2, is 1.125 or 9/8.


Figure 1 If the matrix unit is one tenth of the lunar month, then three lunar years becomes 360 units which, taken to be high do or D” = the harmonic limiting number, presents the matrix above, in the style proposed as indicative of Ancient Tuning Theory by Ernest McClain (see his The Myth of Invariance).  This Harmonic Matrix for 360 = 36 months shows that the 32 lunar month period starts row 2 as 320.
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Equal Temperament through Geometry and Metrology

The form of musical scale we use today is the (apparently modern) equal tempered scale. Its capabilities express well the new mind’s freedom of movement in that it allows us to change key to play compositions that move between alternative frameworks. This possibility was known to ancient tuning theory, could be approximated within Just intonation’s chromatic notes and was discussed by Plato as forming the constitution of one of his harmonic city states called Magnesia.

Relationship of the Equal Temperament Keyboard to the (logarithmic base-2) tone circle of an octave. We choose D (the Dorian scale) because it is symmetrical on both keyboard and tone circle. Equal Temperament supplies tones which enable any scale to be played starting from any note, though it is the Ionian (C-major) which defines modern key signatures.
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