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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