06 December 2006

Antikythera Mechanism discussed

Here is a wider discussion in Nature of the Antikythera Mechanism I mentioned a few days ago.

This litle discussion starts to bring home a sense of the intricate sophistication of this two-thousand-year-old mechanism & makes an interesting read, as well as investigating some of the cultural mechanisms behind it (why, for example, is it one of a kind?) & the ship it went down in.

It has some excellent pictures of the mechanism & reconstructions.


KD said...

I am trying to find out if the A Mechanism was able to calculate the precession of the equinoxes. Anybody know? ~Kate

Leon Brooks said...

Sorry, I don't know.

It does map the Lunar wobble with a pair of cunning little gears, which I reckon helps your odds.

What they have left isn't the entire mechanism. They're interpreting the rest of it as I type and should be publishing what they find in a few weeks/months.

If I see anything interesting about exinoxes, I'll 'blog it.

Leon Brooks said...

kd, this quote from the article is interesting, especially if Metonic or Saros cycles involved equinoxes:

On the back of the box are two spiral dials, one above the other. A pointer at the centre of each traces its way slowly around the spiral groove like a record stylus. The top dial, Wright explains, shows the Metonic cycle — 235 months fitting quite precisely into 19 years. The lower spiral, according to the research by Edmunds and his colleagues, was divided into 223, reflecting the 223-month period of the Saros cycle, which is used to predict eclipses.

Leon Brooks said...

kd, this random article also deduces that equinox tracking was part of ancient astronomy.

How much weight you give the article, I don’t know, but it seems that many ancient structures were aligned to equinoxes.

Leon Brooks said...

Here is another random link which mentions The mechanism consisted of a box, the external faces of which bore metal plates that were scaled. On these plates and on the flaps of the box, various signs were engraved, as well as names of months, constellations, signs of the zodiac, names of the then known planets, winds, indications for the equinox and the times certain constellations appeared and disappeared on the sky.