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Antikythera Mechanism mystery turns 115

Posted on Wednesday, 17 May, 2017 | Comment icon 25 comments

The Antikythera Mechanism. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Juanxi
It has been over a century since the ancient device was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece.
Generally considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time, the remarkable 2,000-year-old mechanism is believed to be a form of early astronomical computer.

How the ancient Greeks developed the device, which is filled with a staggeringly intricate array of bronze gears, remains something of a mystery - especially given the time period it was built in.

Originally retrieved from the wreckage by sponge divers, the mechanism was found alongside an array of other artefacts including coins, jewelry, pottery and statue fragments.

More recently, scientists have also discovered a skeleton belonging to one of the ship's crew.

Researchers believe that the vessel was traveling from the coast of Asia Minor to Rome when it sunk and that it had been carrying the valuables of a woman who was due to be married.

The mechanism itself was most likely used as a mapping and navigational aid.

Source: India Times | Comments (25)

Tags: Antikythera Mechanism

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #16 Posted by Onoma on 31 May, 2017, 22:06
  The earliest known examples of the intercalary luni-solar calendars date to Sumer By my recollection, it's mainly procedural texts ( for magic rituals ) and also omen texts ( which are also sometimes procedural texts, but sometimes just plain ephemeris ) They used the synchronized luni-solar calendar and then also had a system of intercalations for the stellar calendar ( the mazzaroth / zodiac ), but were well aware of other intercalations and cycles, for example the intercalation of the eclipse year with the luni-solar year ( approximate;y 19 days shorter ) The Antikythera mechanism calcula... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Onoma on 31 May, 2017, 23:00
An early example of the evidence of the use of the intercalary calendar is found in an  En?ma Anu Enlil tablet, in the first line: 30 TAB-ma ba-ra-ri i-ta-a?-dar  AN.GE? LUGAL URIki "If the moon is early and eclipses at dusk (bar?ri), it is an eclipse for the king of Akkad"  From the Akkadian ad?ru, which is from the Sumerian : kana ( to be dark ) which is where the name of the intercalary month of " adar " originally comes from Helps to remember that ancient astronomers in Mesopotamia were more interested in recording eclipses than any other type of phenomenon, and " blood moons " in particul... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by Onoma on 1 June, 2017, 0:43
Here are some examples of agglutinative words used in astronomical texts, using the šar       The terminology where we find things like a garden referenced are based on the idiomatic speech commonly found in texts dealing with astronomy cf " the Plough star " The High Priest ( originally ) not only served as the head astronomer, he was also the scribe recording observations ( like the ephemeris  Christopher Columbus fooled the island natives with, when he told them he would make an omen in the sky appear to let them know God was angry they would not supply him with food, as he knew the timing ... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Tatetopa on 1 June, 2017, 5:15
This one still amazes me.  There is not a technology friendly society in Greece around this time I think.   Craftsmen of all sorts were lower in the social order than farmers and soldiers.  Not much encouragement to ingenuity.   Only one or two other mechanisms have been described, I think none survived.  This hints at so much we don't know about this period.
Comment icon #20 Posted by back to earth on 1 June, 2017, 6:05
Perhaps true of Greek societies, but there were other advanced societies  as well . We have some hints  ( see the Garden of Babylon thread )  .   Eg.  the 'prehistorical'  eras before the recorded  early Persian  empires  ;    'Pishdadian Empire ' Vast amounts of their literature has been lost or destroyed ( by Alexander, the Arab conquest, and others )   and still today we know little of the  pre-Persian far eastern Empires in central Asia and the beginnings of urban settlement there ( around 4,500 bc ) , and never really looked into it until the 1970s  ( excepting  the Russian Viktor Sariani... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by DieChecker on 1 June, 2017, 8:16
Just as today we have geniuses who invent new and amazing things, they had geniuses in ancient times.  The MOST amazing thing probably isn't that such a device existed, but that some of it survived into modern times to be found and wondered over.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Onoma on 1 June, 2017, 18:21
Here's the breakdown of the largest gear, and how it is based directly on the synodic month average inherited from the Sumerians I've put the base 60 in red at the top ( the standard Mesopotamian base for the month reckoning ) and the base 10 fractional representation underneath, also in red When I referred to Plato as having written of the knowledge of these mathematics, it is specifically what he refers to as the:  " Lord of better and worse births ", which he writes is the number 12.960,000 ( 604 ) ( Different from " Plato's number " , but related ) " births " merely refer to planetary cycl... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by Gingitsune on 2 June, 2017, 6:11
This is exactly what they said in the BBC video seanjo linked, a bit long, but well worth seeing. The calculus were from Mesopotamia, but the craftmanship was Greek, everything is written in Greek inside the machine. They even manage to reduce the possibility to a single Greek city, Syracuse. Their guess is, the mastermind behind this is no other than Archimedes, although it's probably some underlings who probably made this one.  
Comment icon #24 Posted by Onoma on 2 June, 2017, 18:48
    Cool, just watched the video Have to admit, I usually shy away from TV, but that was pretty good It didn't really get into the topics too deeply, but for the layman, it was good But to be honest, I believe academics have hardly cracked it's secrets      
Comment icon #25 Posted by Hanslune on 2 June, 2017, 22:56
Come now don't hold back tell us what you think they missed (and I'm sure they have missed a lot which is why it is still being investigated - and why they went back to the original wreck.

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