I wrote about this really cool find on the old blog a few years ago. Its interesting that some of its purpose has finally been discovered. But what I find especially interesting is the inter-cultural connections it presents such as "the influence of Babylonian astronomy on the Greeks." Its amazing what large historical constructs can be discerned by the tiniest pieces of evidence.
by John Noble Wilford
After a closer examination of the Antikythera Mechanism, a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.
The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism's concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, in Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with the great 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.
Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism