Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ancient Mysteries

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW
In 1900 a sponge diver taking shelter from a storm near the Greek island of Antikythera found the wreck of an ancient ship. Two years later archaeologists studying the ship found a strange bronze lump that turned out to be a geared mechanism. So complex was the artifact that some archaeologist believed it was from the 14th century that somehow fell on to the wreckage. It was later dated to 65 B.C but the Antikythera Mechanism, as it became known, remained a mystery.

Now the mystery may have been solved. It appears to be an ancient calculator, a thousand years ahead of it time.

"It could be described as the first known calculator," said Professor Mike Edmunds, a professor of astrophysics at Cardiff University in Wales.

"Our recent work has applied very modern techniques that we believe have now revealed what its actual functions were."

The calculator could add, multiply, divide and subtract.

It was also able to align the number of lunar months with years and display where the sun and the moon were in the zodiac.

Professor Edmunds and his colleagues discovered it had a dial that predicted when there was a likely to be a lunar or solar eclipse.

It also took into account the elliptical orbit of the moon.

"The actual astronomy is perfect for the period," Professor Edmunds told Reuters.

"What is extraordinary about the thing is that they were able to make such a sophisticated technological device and to be able to put that into metal."

The model of the calculator shows 37 gear wheels housed in a wooden case with inscriptions on the cover that related to the planetary movements.

Francois Charette, of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said the findings, reported in the journal Nature, provide a wealth of data for future research.

"Newly deciphered inscriptions that relate to the planetary movements make it plausible that the mechanism originally also had gearings to predict the motion of the planets," he said in a commentary.

Professor Edmunds described the instrument as unique, saying there is nothing like it in the history of astronomy.

Similar complicated mechanisms were not been seen until the appearance of medieval cathedral clocks much later.

"What was not quite so apparent before was quite how beautifully designed this was," he said......."

Years ago ,I visited the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta. There you will find the Hypogeum a large underground temple-burial complex over 5000 years old. In one section there a carved chamber called the Oracle Room. Speak into it and it will amplify the human voice. But it will only amplify the male voice, a woman's voice , with a different pitch will not be amplified. Now. Did some bronze age builder know enough about acoustics to work it out? Was it trial and error or just coincidence?

As the professor said: 'Well gosh, if they can do that what else could they do?'