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The Antikythera Mechanism
Published on December 2, 2006 By Bahu Virupaksha In Ancient
Ancient history is facinating largely due to the unexpected surprises it throws up/ Where is the tomb of the great conqueror, Alexander? Where is the last burial spot of Gengiz Khan? There are no answers to these questions. Only speculation tinged with the eternal hope that someday such questions will be answered. May be we have spoken too soon. The facination of ancient histoery probably also lies in the realisation that some questions will for ever remain a mystery. Last week saw the untangling of one such mytery, the decoding of the Antikythera Mechanism, a long time favorite of all those whose have let their imaginattion soar into those rarefied limits of Atlantis and beyond. The truth as always is more mundane.

The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in a Roman wrek off the Greek coast in 1901. Thickly encrusted with centuries of rust and debris this piece of geared mechanism remained an object of every kind of ill considered speculation. If my memory serves me right that prankster, Erich von Daniken, has also mentioned this find along with the Turkish admiral's map which purpotedly showed the North and South Amerricas. Unbridled speculation does little service to knowledge. Last week an article published in[B] Nature[/B] has finally led to some concrete results.

The truth they say is stranger than fiction and this statement is certainly true of the Antikythera Mechanism. A team of scientists working in Cardiff University supported by a whole staff of astronomers in Greece have subjected the artifact to detailed scietific analysis. Using modern high resolution X-ray tomography the team has been able to uncover a whole series of complex gears under the thick encrustation of sea deritris. The scientists have noted that this mechanism could predict solar and lunar eclipses to an amazing degree of exactness. What is surprising is that this device was predicated on an exact and accurate calculation of planetrary orbits centuries before Kepler, Copernisus,Tycho Brahe and Issac Newton. And best of all the elliptical orbit of the heavenly bodies was grasped and the Antikythera mechanism was so accurately calliberated that it took into consideration the wobble caused by the gravitational; pull of orbitting moons and astroids.

The dating of this remakable piece of ancient technological skill is problematic. However, the glyphs and inscriptions on the machie itself can be read as digital imagery is able to clear centuries of residue of corrosion and erosion. The word "sterignos" in Greek meaning stationary point has paleographic features of the period BC 150-100 and so the machanism belongs to the second century AD.

The dials on the front display the positions of the sun and the moon, corresponding to a calendar year of 365 days. The Antikythera Mechanism shows deep familiarity with the 76 year cycle known to astonomers as the Callippic Cycle.The whole front dial is divided into quadrants as required by the Callippic Cycle.

It has been suggested that the device was based on the astronomical tables prepared by the Babylonians.

Comments
on Dec 02, 2006
There is an excellent discssion of rhis particular artifact in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Societyvol 64 #7 (new series) 1974.
on Dec 10, 2006
prankster, Erich von Daniken


I enjoyed reading his books, he put a lot of thought into them.

What is surprising is that this device was predicated on an exact and accurate calculation of planetrary orbits centuries before Kepler, Copernisus,Tycho Brahe and Issac Newton. And best of all the elliptical orbit of the heavenly bodies was grasped and the Antikythera mechanism was so accurately calliberated that it took into consideration the wobble caused by the gravitational; pull of orbitting moons and astroids.


It sounds really fascinating!
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