Phaistos disk dechipered – reading in Hungarian

Peter Revesz from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has dechipered the enigmatic Phaistos Disk with the help of Hungarian language and script.

How long have you been dealing with ancient scripts and their decipherment?

When I was twenty, I entered Brown University as a PhD student in Computer Science, where I started working with an excellent Greek professor, Paris Kanellakis. He was a highly respectable, renaissance man, who displayed a copy of the Phaistos Disk on his desk and kept many other Greek objects and books, such as a bust of Democritus, in his office. He liked to tell stories, and I liked listening to him. Hence after six years I could have received a classics degree beside my Computer Science Ph.D. degree. While I visited the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in 2008 as a Fulbright professor, I bought a copy of the Phaistos Disk in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. After my purchase, it bothered me for years that an untranslated writing stood on my desk because, unlike my late professor, I do not like to accumulate “need-to-be-done” things on my desk.

Your study reminds me of János Borbola’s readings of Egyptian hieroglyphic texts. What do you think about those?

I know János Borbola’s article entitled “A Nílus-parti hieroglifák magyar nyelvű olvasata” (Kisenciklopédia 7., Magyarságtudományi Füzetek, 2010) and I heard a lecture of his on YouTube. A couple of his translations seemed interesting, but I did not find them convincing. Unfortunately, his work is at odds with the generally accepted results of Egyptology, so it is almost impossible for his views to gain acceptance abroad. Members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Hungary also cannot accept his criticism of the Finno-Ugric theory. My study is very different from János Borbola’s work in the following ways. First, most experts in Minoan studies considered Cretan Hieroglyphs undeciphered before my work. Second, I accept the Finno-Ugric theory, and in fact, my work is using it.

I also studied the Phaistos disk, but I never tried a Hungarian translation.

I consider the Minoan language to be part of the Finno-Ugric language family. I think the Minoan language is a close relative of Hungarian, but it is not Hungarian. In some places within my translation where the phonetic values were ambiguous, I preferred the Hungarian phonetic values, but they remain uncertain. As we gain more knowledge about the Minoan language, it is likely that future reconstructions of the Minoan language will sound more different from Hungarian. That is why I propose that we talk not about Hungarian but about a language that is related to Hungarian.

How did the idea of translating the Phaistos disk into Hungarian come to you?

For a long time, I thought a translation of the Phaistos Disk into a language that is a relative of Hungarian impossible. While studying the history of the Hungarian Rovás script, I came to the conclusion that it is related to the Phaistos Disk script, which is merely a well-elaborated version of the Cretan hieroglyph script. I published this work in a journal article 2016 (P. Z. Revesz, Bioinformatics evolutionary tree algorithms reveal the history of the Cretan Script Family, International Journal of Applied Mathematics and Informatics, 10, 67-76, 2016.) Only after the relationship between Hungarian Rovás and the Cretan hieroglyph scripts was clarified did I try a translation into a language related to Hungarian. I was also surprised that a translation was possible that used Finno-Ugric words almost exclusively and a grammar similar to the Hungarian grammar.

What does your translation say?

According to the translation, the Phaistos Disk contains two prayers to a sun goddess. One side, which is referred to as side A, contains a winter solstice prayer. This prayer is meant to invoke the sun to bring about spring. The other side of the disk, called side B, contains a prayer to the setting and rising sun. Several experts claimed that the Phaistos Disk is probably some prayer, but in the absence of a credible translation, that was only a guess.

Did you translate other Cretan hieroglyphic texts too?

Yes, I also translated two of the longer Cretan hieroglyphic texts. One text was written on a bronze axe that was found in a cave near Arkalochori, a village in central Crete. The archaeologists regarded it as a donation to some god. The text of my translation is, “To Tammuz (god) this axe we gave.” In that translation, the occurrence of the name “Tammuz” is somewhat surprising because Tammuz is a Middle Eastern god name. However, god names and religions could spread in Minoan times. According to the mythologist John Campbell, Tammuz was the original name of the Greek goddess Demeter. In addition, I could also translate a text that was written on an altar stone found near the town of Malia. Interestingly, this altar stone has a cup-like cavity on the top, which contained some fluid according to the archaeologists. In this case, my translation also fits to the artifact. My translation says “For your eyes that you may see God.” In my opinion, the altar stone cavity may have contained some hallucinogenic substance, which was used during the ceremonies. These three translations have appeared together in the following recent journal article: (P. Z. Revesz, A translation of the Arkalochori Axe and the Malia Altar Stone, WSEAS Transactions on Information Science and Applications, 14, 124-133, 2017.)

What feedback did you get from other researchers abroad and from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences?

Last spring, I was invited as a Fulbright scholar and guest professor to visit the Aquincum Institute of Technology, which is affiliated with the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. During my visit to Hungary, I held eight lectures at various universities and organizations where I talked about the relationship between ancient scripts, including the Hungarian Rovás script and the Cretan hieroglyphs. At that time, I only briefly mentioned that I was dealing with translations. I will visit Hungary again this summer and will also give some lectures on the translations too. Many professors and university students liked my work on the evolution of the Cretan and related scripts. I hope my translation work will be equally well received. There are also many people in the United States who like my work and would like to see its continuation.