The pre-modern world, especially the ancient world, is full of many mysteries, riddles, and enigmas that have perplexed scholars and lay people alike for centuries. One does not have to search long to find some of these mysteries. Ancient Egypt is often thought of as one of the most arcane of all civilizations with many aspects of its culture that are only now coming to light. For instance, the hieroglyphic script was not deciphered until the 19th century and to date scholars are still unsure about the details concerning how the pyramids were built or how mummies were made since there are no extant ancient “guidebooks” of either. Likewise, the oldest European culture to reach the status of “civilization” - the Minoans - remains a mystery to the modern world in many ways.
Nearly 2,500 years after the Golden Age of Athens, people across the world today continue to be fascinated by the Ancient Greeks, but the Greeks looked up to the Minoans. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus makes note of “a great town there, Cnossus, where Minos reigned.” It was perhaps the earliest reference to the Minoan civilization, a mysterious ancient civilization that historians and archaeologists still puzzle over, but a civilization that renowned historian Will Durant described as "the first link in the European chain."
Nearly 2,000 years before Homer wrote his epic poems, the Minoan civilization was centered on the island of Crete, a location that required the Minoans to be a regional sea power. And indeed they were, stretching across the Aegean Sea from about 2700-1500 BCE, with trade routes extending all the way to Egypt.
Archaeologists have found evidence that many of the Cretan cities suffered severe damage and were ravaged by fire at the same time Minoan trade diminished. Although some of the cities were reoccupied and partially rebuilt, the Minoan civilization never fully recovered. Recent archaeological finds have led to a consensus among scholars that the Minoan civilization was destroyed by a natural cataclysm.
Questions persist over the origins of the Minoan civilization, the end of the civilization, and substantial parts of their history, including their religion and buildings. All of this is largely because their written language, known today as “Linear A”, remains undeciphered, and among the more enigmatic finds of this truly enigmatic culture was a small disk-shaped object excavated among the ruins of the Minoan city of Phaistos in 1908. It is known simply as the “Phaistos Disc” and contains a number of pictographic symbols that remain unknown in the more than 100 years since it was found. Many different theories have been advanced, but there is still no consensus concerning its origins, or even if it was intended to be writing.
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