RE: Phaistos in ConScript

From: Marco Cimarosti (
Date: Mon Jul 08 2002 - 11:40:22 EDT

Michael Everson wrote:
> >1. Your lacks an important sign, which I would call "PHAISTOS
> Um, can't something from General Punctuation be used, in the absence
> of knowing more about this "character"?

It seems very imprudent, considering that nothing is known abut the nature
of that a sign.

E.g. would you dare to unify it with U+0316 (COMBINING GRAVE ACCENT BELOW)
without knowing whether it is a stress mark, a tone mark, a cantillation
mark, a vowel muter, a full stop, a comma, a determinative for

> Do you have an analysis of
> all the signs which take it in the document?

Yes, in Louis Godart, "Il disco di Festo: l'enigma di una scrittura",
Einaudi (Italy) 1994, ISBN 8806128922. An English translation should now be

BTW, the only thing I disliked in this excellent book was the fact that,
IMHO, Godart was to quick to accept the assumption that this sign could be
punctuation, and he even uses it to segment the text in "sentences" or

Apart this detail, Godart made an excellent work in delivering all the known
facts and rejecting all fantasy and indemonstrable assumptions.

> >2. The last sign of the tenth group ("word"?) is almost totally
> >lost, due to a crack. However, it seems than none of the 45
> known signs may
> >fit in the gap. Many scholars consider this to be a 46th
> sign. The glyph
> >normally used is the literature is a texture of diagonal lines.
> Godart says "The last sign of set A:VIII was not deleted but broke
> off with a sliver of clay. Bearing mind the space and outline of the
> gap, which seems to roughtly follow the outline of the broken sign,
> it seems that the most plausible identification of the mysterious
> sign is a 3 [TATTOOED HEAD] or a 20 [DOLIUM], unless it is an 8
> [GAUNTLET] or a 4 [CAPTIVE], which is less likely." I don't want to
> encode a new character without better evidence (and wouldn't for ANY
> script). I haven't seen anything from other scholars who consider it
> a 46th sign.

Godart himself allows for this possibility in the book I mentioned above.
But you are right, encoding this "phantom" characters would be a problem in
case the missing character is identified.

Perhaps, it would be useful to have a (non PUA) Unicode symbol to mark
unidentified characters in any kind of paleographic or critic texts. This
could be the object of a proposal, or it could be unified with one of the
existing shaded rectangles.

> >... about the character names:
> >
> >3. The names for E6FE and E6FF ("PHAISTOS PARAGRAPH SEPARATOR" and
> >"PHAISTOS PHRASE SEPARATOR") show imprudent assumptions. E.g., many
> >people consider E6FF to be a paragraph or text separator, and E6FE
> >to be a word separator. It would be more prudent to use a more
> >generic wording, e.g. "PHAISTOS VERTICAL LINE" and "PHAISTOS
> I agree that those names aren't good. The dotted one occurs at the
> beginning of the text on both sides. PHAISTOS BEGINNING OF TEXT and

Still assumptions, but much more reasonable.

> I don't like VERTICAL LINE and DOTTED
> VERTICAL LINE very much. That kind of description we usually reserve
> for abstract technical symbols rather than punctuation.

Punctuation? Did you discover it is punctuation? :-)

> >4. Names such as "pedestrian", "plumed head", ... "wavy band" are
> >just nicknames used by scholars, as opposed to accepted
> identifications of
> >the objects represented. It may be worth to emphasize this
> in the character
> We either use the numbers given by the scholars, so U+E6D0 can either
> we're using a scholarly designation. The meaningful nicknames are
> more fun than the numeric ones....

"PHAISTOS SIGN-01" would be too meaningless. I still feel ashamed for my
stupid idea that Unicode Kang Xi radicals should have been called "KANG XI

OTOH, you know the Phaistos Disk "translators": for many of them, the
character names on your CSUR page make enough evidence that PHAISTOS SIGN OX
BACK was pronounced /bu/. (or even /kau as/ :-)

> >... and about the Everson Phaistos font:
> >
> >5. I find that mirroring the signs as you did in your font is an
> >unhistorical. The whole corpus is right-to-left, and the
> fact that the signs
> >where impressed with types makes it impossible that the
> signs could have
> >been reversed. In academic books, it is common practice to
> type the disc's
> >text left-to-right, but the signs are not reversed.
> I have followed Egyptological -- and ancient Egyptian -- practice
> here. If the script is represented right-to-left the faces point to
> the right so that you read into their faces. If the script direction
> is reversed so that it is left-to-right, it is conventional -- among
> Egyptologists and ancient Egyptians -- to reverse the signs as well.

I see. But Hieroglyphs were handwritten, not "typed". Moreover, the
mirroring of glyphs is actually attested for Egyptian.

> Godart does not reverse the glyphs even though he reverses the
> directionality, but I think it is *his* practice which is
> ahistorical, and I think it makes the text harder to read. And I
> suspect is has to do with the font technology he had in 1994 when he
> wrote his book.

It's seems that July 2002 is our disagreement month... I think that Godart
was perfectly right avoiding assumptions that he could not support: there is
no reason to think that the Phaistos "script" should work as Egyptian
hieroglyphs work.

I don't think font technology had anything to do with this choice: from my
printed edition of "Il disco di Festo" I can see clearly that the text was
reproduced using little images, not a font (sometimes the borders of the
film and the adhesive tape are still visible).

> >IMHO, the two characters in points 1 and 2 absolutely
> needed. Academic works
> >which consider them as part of the script could not be
> encoded without them,
> >while academic works which don't need them are not disturbed by their
> >existence in the encoding.
> I didn't think so. Any counter-arguments to the above?

BTW, I withdraw this for the phantom 46th character, for the reasons I
admitted above.

_ Marco

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Mon Jul 08 2002 - 10:04:44 EDT