The notoriously solitary Phaistos disc from Crete appears to be the world’s oldest “printed” document. The disc, about 15 centimetres in diameter, occupies pride of place at the Heraklion Museum in Crete. Some say it should not be regarded as an undeciphered script because it is in fact a hoax – the Piltdown Man of ancient writing.
Decoding antiquity August 20, 2009
Development of language and writing as means of communication has been one of the most important features of humans that has separated us from all the other creatures on this planet. All earthlings have some form or other of communication, ranging from chemical to acoustic, depending on their position along the evolutionary ladder. the humans are considered the most evolved in this regard with ability of articulating our speech greatly with help of highly developed vocal organs. The highly developed brain and the ability of gripping and manoeuvring objects uniquely with the opposing thumb also lead to us developing writing system, a feature unequivocally unique to our species.
There still some dispute over the very first culture that seems to have used writing as a form of communication. New discoveries made by archaeologists keep pushing the dates of first use of writing more and more backward. Also, out of all the scripts that have been discovered, not all have been deciphered. Recent history has shown us that any time a new script has been deciphered, be it the Egyptian hieroglyphs or Mayan scriptures, it has had a significant impact on our understanding of that culture. More often than not it has awed us by the sophistication in and knowledge of various fields, from sciences to architecture to politics.
In his article in May 2009, Andrew Robinson of New Scientist tells us about 8 scripts that we still haven’t been able to read. The article details the origins of the scripts, their antiquity and why we haven’t been able to read them yet. There are various extents of their mystery to us. In some of the cases, the languages are known in their spoken form but only the script hasn’t been deciphered, like the Zapotec script from the New world cultures. Other instances are the opposite, like the Proto-Elamite script believed to be the earliest script discovered. And then there are the ultimate puzzlers like
Well, after reading the article, being the optimist I am, I chose to focus on the fact that humanity still has 8 more chances of being amazed and humbled by the antiquity. And I hope at least one of that comes true in my lifetime.