Keeping Track Of Time

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More information about the Antikythera Mechanism has been revealed. (I first posted about this ancient device here). It turns out that the device could calculate the dates for the Olympics, as well as predict eclipses. All-in-all, this is a pretty sophisticated device. And its some 2,000 years old.

The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism’s concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, on Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with Archimedes.

Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse and died in 212 B.C., invented a planetarium calculating motions of the Moon and the known planets and wrote a lost manuscript on astronomical mechanisms. Some evidence had previously linked the complex device of gears and dials to the island of Rhodes and the astronomer Hipparchos, who had made a study of irregularities in the Moon’s orbital course.

The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C.

Here's the website for the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project. (The website is under redesign, so everything may not yet be functional.) This will require a little rethinking about how advanced the ancient world really was.

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4 Responses to Keeping Track Of Time

  1. A lot of items we think of as modern-day inventions (steam power and gliders, for example) were "discovered" in the ancient world, but, whether from an inability to "connect the dots" or a lack of the necessary tools, they were never made use of.

  2. martian says:

    There are many devices invented in ancient times that were then lost to civilization during the Dark Ages and have only recently been re-discovered. The History Channel has had a number of very good shows on many ancient devices, even at least one that has featured the Antikythera Mechanism. They re-run the shows on a regular basis. If you’re interested in this subject and have access to the History Channel, keep an eye out for show titles that feature Ancient Weapons, Ancient Inventions, etc. There are also a couple of shows that feature the same subjects while focusing on China and the Orient. If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I’m a bit of a history buff and so is my wife so we end up watching a lot of the History Channel, especially during re-run season in the summertime.

  3. JIm says:

    Nice article and the previous one as well.  Extremely interesting.  Thank you.

  4. The two fields which define the great achievements of the last several centuries are material technology and the Petro-Chemical industry.

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