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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Victoria Shockley Reviews Solomon’s Sky by Peter Aleff


Solomon’s Sky

By Peter Aleff
Author's Website:
ISBN 0-9724646-3-8 for e-book
ISBN 0-9724646-4-6 for paperback

GENRE: History
Review originally published on
the homepage for the novel, and was given 5 stars
Publisher: Recovered Science Press

Review by Victoria Shockley (

A fascinating solution to the mystery surrounding an ancient artifact

An engaging solution to the mystery surrounding an ancient artifact, Solomon's Sky presents the key to the riddle of the famous Phaistos Disk, an artifact that has baffled archaeologists and many others for over a century. The Disk, which dates back to the Bronze Age, was found on the southern coast of the Mediterranean island of Crete, and its markings have been interpreted in a number of different, sometimes comical ways. Most of its would-be decipherers believed that the symbols are a form of writing, typically in some rare form of Greek but also a long list of other languages such as Basque or Slavic. This led them to “read” the Disk variously as a calendar, a sacred hymn and kitchen recipe, a sex manual, or an astronomical document, and much more.

However, among all of the proposals for the meaning and purpose of this ancient object, historian and author Peter Aleff's idea makes the most sense: that its symbols are actually markings for an ancient game board. His interpretation is well-researched, as every source is cited with a link or page numbers to back up his claims, and there are numerous endnotes. The many photographs, maps, and other images provide visual aids that complement the information he's describing, which I found particularly helpful in understanding some of the more complex aspects of the story.

Although I enjoy mysteries and riddles, I wouldn't consider myself a history buff. However, the way Mr. Aleff explains the background behind the ancient Disk and the various translation efforts over the years immediately grabbed my attention and made me want to keep reading. His style is easy to follow, and his writing is clean and precise. I was able to easily recognize many of the historical references to places and ancient civilizations, and the ones I was unfamiliar with were readily accessible through Google searches. For this reason, I think Solomon's Sky can appeal not only to people enthusiastic about history and/or archaeology, but also to those like me who have only lightly delved into those fields. Mr. Aleff's slightly sarcastic humor is a pleasant surprise, given that the historical basis of the story may make one expect something much dryer.

Solomon's Sky is definitely an enjoyable book, and also very informative. Before reading it, I had been completely unaware of the existence of the Phaistos Disk or the mystery that has surrounded it ever since its discovery. I had never heard of the ancient game of Senet or the Snake Game, or even its modern descendant the Game of the Goose, (and of course, I had no idea of their parallels with the Disk). Learning about these ancient connections and mysteries in Solomon's Sky has opened a window to the past for me and reminded me how fascinating history can be.

About the author: Peter Aleff is an engineer, a researcher, a designer, a historian, and an author. He was born and raised in Germany and studied economics at the University of Basel in Switzerland. History had always been one of his hobbies, and he began to research the history and role of board games in antiquity. Several scholars had drawn attention to the rosette with eight leaves which appears on many ancient gameboards, and on boards of the same type usually in the same fields. He noticed the same rosette on the Phaistos Disk, and it occurred to him that this Disk might also be a gameboard. From this new perspective, he noticed parallels between the Disk and other board games and soon found the key to this interpretation, which is the story of Solomon’s Sky.

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