London, July 12 : An American scholar has declared the Greek Phaistos Disc, which is believed to be 4,000 years old, to be a fake.
According to a report in the Times, some people have said that the 45 mysterious symbols on the disc are the words of a 4,000-year-old poem, or perhaps a sacred text.
Others contest that they are a magical inscription, a piece of ancient music or the world's oldest example of punctuation.
Jerome Eisenberg, a specialist in faked ancient art, is claiming that the disc and its indecipherable text is not a relic dating from 1,700 BC, but a forgery that has duped scholars since Luigi Pernier, an Italian archaeologist, "discovered" it in 1908 in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on Crete.
According to Dr Eisenberg, Pernier was desperate to impress his colleagues with a find of his own, and needed to unearth something that could outdo the discoveries made by Sir Arthur Evans, the renowned English archaeologist, and Federico Halbherr, a fellow Italian.
Eisenberg believes that Pernier's solution was to create a "relic" with an untranslatable pictographic text - an elaborate hoax.
For the past century, innumerable attempts have been made to decipher the disc. Archaeologists have tried linking them to ancient civilizations, from Greek to Egyptian.
Dr Eisenberg, who has conducted appraisals for the US Treasury Department and the J. Paul Getty Museum, highlighted the forger's error in creating a terracotta "pancake" with a cleanly cut edge. Nor, he added, should it have been fired so perfectly.
"Minoan clay tablets were not fired purposefully, only accidentally," he said. "Pernier may not have realised this," he added.
Each side of the disc bears a bar composed of four or five dots which one scholar described as "the oldest example of the use of natural punctuation".
According to Dr Eisenberg, it was added to lead scholars astray - "another oddity to puzzle them, and a common trick among forgers".
Though Eisenberg's misgivings could be laid to rest by a thermoluminescence test - a standard scientific dating test, Greek authorities have refused to give him permission to examine the disc outside its display case, arguing that it is too delicate to be moved.