Tag Archive: lunar



The Antikythera mechanism is a 2,100-year-old computer:

Wikipedia
Antikythera mechanism Wikipedia

116 years ago (1902), divers found a chunk of bronze off a Greek island. It has radically changed our understanding of human history.

One hundred sixteen years ago, an archaeologist was sifting through objects found in the wreck of a 2,000-year-old vessel off the Greek island Antikythera. Among the wreck’s treasures, fine vases and pots, jewellery and, fittingly enough, a bronze statue of an ancient philosopher, he found a peculiar contraption, consisting of a series of brass gears and dials mounted in a case the size of a mantel clock. Archaeologists dubbed the instrument the Antikythera mechanism. The genius — and mystery — of this piece of ancient Greek technology is that arguably it is the world’s first computer. If we gaze inside the machine, we find clear evidence of at least two dozen gears, laid neatly on top of one another, calibrated with the precision of a master-crafted Swiss watch. This was a level of technology that archaeologists would usually date to the sixteenth century AD. But a mystery remained: What was this contraption used for? 

To archaeologists, it was immediately apparent that the mechanism was some sort of clock, calendar or calculating device. But they had no idea what it was for. For decades, they debated. Was the Antikythera a toy model of the planets or was it a kind of early astrolabe, a device which calculates latitude?

IMAGE ancient

At long last, in 1959, Princeton science historian Derek J. de Solla Price provided the most convincing scientific analysis of this amazing device to date. After a meticulous study of the gears, he deduced that the mechanism was used to predict the position of the planets and stars in the sky depending on the calendar month. The single primary gear would move to represent the calendar year, and would, in turn, activate many separate smaller gears to represent the motions of the planets, sun and moon. So you could set the main gear to the calendar date and get close approximations for where those celestial objects in the sky on that date. And Price declared in the pages of Scientific American that it was a computer: “The mechanism is like a great astronomical clock ... or like a modern analogue computer which uses mechanical parts to save tedious calculation.”
 
Anticythera mechanism frontal

Antikythera mechanism original
It was a computer in the sense that you, as a user, could input a few simple variables and it would yield a flurry of complicated mathematical calculations. Today the programming of computers is written in digital code, a series of ones and zeros. This ancient analog clock had its code written into the mathematical ratios of its gears. All the user had to do was enter the main date on one gear, and through a series of subsequent gear revolutions, the mechanism could calculate variables such as the angle of the sun crossing the sky. As a point of referencdee, mechanical calculators using gear ratios to add and subtract, didn’t surface in Europe until the 1600s. 

Since Price’s assessment, modern X-ray and 3D mapping technology have allowed scientists to peer deeper into the remains of the mechanism to learn even more of its secrets. In the early 2000s, researchers discovered text in the guise of an instruction manual that had never been seen before, inscribed on parts of the mechanism. The text, written in tiny typeface but legible ancient Greek, helped them bring closure to complete the puzzle of what the machine did and how it was operated.
 
The mechanism had several dials and clock faces, each which served a different function for measuring movements of the sun, moon, stars, and planets, but they were all operated by just one main crank. Small stone or glass orbs moved across the machine’s face to show the motion of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter in the night sky and the position of the sun and moon relative to the 12 constellations of the zodiac. Another dial would forecast solar and lunar eclipses and even, amazingly enough, predictions about their colour. Today, researchers surmise that different coloured eclipses were considered omens of the future. After all, the ancient Greeks, like all ancients, were a little superstitious. 

The mechanism consisted of:
- a solar calendar, charting the 365 days of the year 
- a lunar calendar, counting a 19 year lunar cycle 
- a tiny pearl-size ball that rotated to illustrate the phase of the moon, and another dial that counted down the days to regularly scheduled sporting events around the Greek isles, like the Olympics.  The mechanics of this device are absurdly complicated. A 2006, in the journal Nature, a paper plotted out a highly complex schematic of the mechanics that connect all the gears. 

Researchers are still not sure who exactly used it. Did philosophers, scientists and even mariners build it to assist them in their calculations? Or was it a type of a teaching tool, to show students the math that held the cosmos together? Was it unique? Or are there more similar devices yet to be discovered? To date, none others have been found.

Its assembly remains another mystery. How the ancient Greeks accomplished this astonishing feat is unknown to this day. Whatever it was used for and however it was built, we know this: its discovery has forever changed our understanding of human history, and reminds us that flashes of genius are possible in every human era. Nothing like this instrument is preserved elsewhere. Nothing comparable to it is known from any ancient scientific text or literary allusion,” Price wrote in 1959. “It is a bit frightening, to know that just before the fall of their great civilization the ancient Greeks had come so close to our age, not only in their thought, but also in their scientific technology.”

There are amazing fully operational modern versions of the Antikythera Mechanism, such as these:

3d-reconstruction-ancient-antikythera-mechanism-770x437

another modern version of the Antikythera mechanism

Antikythera_model_front_panel_Mogi_Vicentini_2007


Linear B tablet KN 777a K b 01 & the wheat (and barley) harvest:

Linear B tablet 777a K b 01

Linear B tablet KN 777a K b 01 deals with the wheat and barley harvest at Knossos, without specifying the amount of the barley harvest, and then goes on to enumerate the wheat harvests alone at Amnisos and Phaistos. We note that the toponyms go by their ethnic names. So I have deemed it appropriate to translate their names as “by the farmers of”... + locale. I find it very suspicious that the scribe has chosen to allot 100 + hectares to every single locale. Bizarre. Maybe he was high on something. But of course, I doubt that. The only alternative explanation that I can think of is that the palace administration at Knossos capped the wheat harvest at each of these milieux. Otherwise, the total amount of wheat produced would have filled the granaries (presumably at Knossos) to the bursting point.  


Linear B tablet KN 847 K j 61, wheat production at Knossos for one lunar month:

Knossos tablet KN 847 K j 61 monthly cultivation of wheat

Linear B tablet KN 847 K j 61 deals with wheat production at Knossos for one month (we do not know which month). Soanobotos is the wheat farmer. Note that the ideogram for “month” looks like the moon, which is scarcely surprising. The output of wheat at 12 hectares for this particular month is in line with the extent of wheat production we might expect from the large expanse of fields surrounding a city as large as Knossos (population ca. 55,000). It is absolutely critical to understand that, in ancient times as in modern in the Mediterranean basin, the production of wheat could not have extended through every month of the year. Far from it. That is par for the course in any civilization, ancient or modern. The second point, which stage of production are we dealing with here? This tablet does not make it at all clear. Is is spring and are we dealing with the sowing of wheat? Or is it autumn, and the harvesting of wheat. My bet is decidedly in favour of the latter scenario. Now it is more than likely that harvesting of wheat was spread over two months at most, since the autumns are warm in the Mediterranean. So we can expect that something in the order of the number of “hectares” = 12 for this month, let’s say it is lunar “September”, would be repeated for the next month, lunar “October”, though probably on a somewhat lesser scale, let’s say 8 hectares. That would yield a crop of 20 “hectares” harvested for the current year. Pretty decent, I would say. Not only that, we must keep firmly in mind that this crop is only that of Soanobotos, who is only 1 of God knows how many farmers at Knossos. There could have been as few as 20 or as many as 50. No one knows for sure. So the wheat crop harvested at Knossos alone could have run to 240 hectares at a conservative estimate. Just about right on target for such a large city. If a conservative estimate for both of the lunar months is taken into account, the harvest runs to 400 hectares! We’ll never know, but it is always worthwhile conjecturing, and in any case, the wheat crop at Knossos would have had to be pretty substantial.


This Minoan object preceded the heralded Antikythera Mechanism by 1,400 years, and was the first analog and portable computer in history

Researcher Minas Tsikritsis who hails from Crete -- where the Bronze Age Minoan civilization flourished from approximately 2700 BC to 1500 century BC -- maintains that the Minoan Age object discovered in 1898 in Paleokastro site, in the Sitia district of western Crete, preceded the heralded "Antikythera Mechanism" by 1,400 years, and was the first analog and "portable computer" in history.

"While searching in the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion for Minoan Age findings with astronomical images on them we came across a stone-made matrix unearthed in the region of Paleokastro, Sitia. In the past, archaeologists had expressed the view that the carved symbols on its surface are related with the Sun and the Moon," Tsikritsis said.  The Cretan researcher and university professor told ANA-MPA that after the relief image of a spoked disc on the right side of the matrix was analysed it was established that it served as a cast to build a mechanism that functioned as an analog computer to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. The mechanism was also used as sundial and as an instrument calculating the geographical latitude.  Source: Athens News Agency [April 06, 2011]

Text © from original below.

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Minoan computer news network archaeology
This Minoan object preceded the heralded Antikythera Mechanism by 1,400 years, and was the first analog and portable computer in history. A stone-made matrix has carved symbols on its surface are related with the Sun and the Moon serving as a cast to build a mechanism that functioned as an analog computer to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. The mechanism was also used as sundial and as an instrument calculating the geographical latitude.

Previous paragraph by Rita Roberts



The Amazing Antikythera Mechanism: the First Analog Computer in History?

To read this article in its entirety, please click on the Wikipedia logo below:

Wikipedia

The “Antikythera mechanism” was recovered from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1900-1901, at the precise time the city of Knossos was being excavated by Sir Arthur Evans. Its significance and complexity were not understood until a century later when it was analyzed with modern X-ray technology. Its construction has been attributed to the Hellenistic Greeks. Technological artifacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the fourteenth century, when mechanical astronomical clocks were first constructed in Western Europe.  Professor Michael Edmunds of Cardiff University, who led a 2006 study of the mechanism, said, “This device is just extraordinary, the only thing of its kind. The design is beautiful, the astronomy is exactly right. The way the mechanics are designed just makes your jaw drop. Whoever has done this has done it extremely carefully ... in terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa.” Illustration of the Antikythera archeological mechanism, with radiographic details of its intricate gearing system (Click to ENLARGE):

Antikythera Mechanism archaeological find
The mechanism was housed in a wooden box approximately 340 × 180 × 90 mm in size and comprised 30 (!) bronze gears(although more could have been lost). The largest gear, clearly visible in fragment A, is approximately 140 mm in diameter and has 223 teeth. 

You may also wish to consult The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project. Click on the logo:

Antikythera Muserum

http://www.antikythera-mechanism.gr/project/publications

from which I draw this résumé. The Antikythera Mechanism is a Hellenistic astronomical machine with bronze gearing system, made about the second century B.C, preserved in fragments only. In 2005, new data considerably enhanced our knowledge of its functions, being as it is an instrument measuring geocentric cosmology, portraying the stars, Sun, Moon, and all five planets known in antiquity.

Here are images of the gearing system and a modern reconstruction of the truly elegant Antikythera Mechanism (Click to ENLARGE):

Antikythera front gears and B&W cutaway & modern recon
and again, in Scientific American 2009. Click on the logo to read the article:

ScientificAmerican

Résumé: The Antikythera mechanism is a unique & highly sophisticated mechanical analog calculator from the second-century BCE. Advanced imaging tools have enabled researchers to reconstruct how the device predicted with such astonishing accuracy lunar and solar eclipses and the motion of the moon in the sky.

To read about the much earlier Minoan Disc (so-called Analog Computer) see the previous post. It is almost as mind-blowing! 

Richard


 
Is the Minoan Disc Discovered  at Paleokastro in 1898 the World's First Analog Computer?

Researcher and university professor, Minas Tsikritsis from Crete, where Minoan civilization flourished from approximately 2700 BC to 1450 century BC, claims that a Minoan disc  discovered at Paleokastro, Western Crete, in 1898, is the world's earliest analog computer, predating the amazingly intricate “Antikythera Mechanism” by some 1,400 years. Analysis of a relief image on the right side of the matrix of the 25 gear spoked disc reveals that it served as a cast to build a mechanism serving as an analog computer used as a sundial and also to calculate solar and lunar eclipses.  This is what the 25 gear mechanism looks like (CLICK to ENLARGE):

minoan computer and labrys as seasonal calculator

I myself immediately noticed that it also bears a striking resemblance to the astrolabe, and appears to have been used to calculate geographical latitude.  If so, and if it served all of these functions, it was indeed an extremely complex mechanism and precise measuring apparatus, not to be rivalled until the discovery of the even more “Antikythera Mechanism” of the Hellenic Era (ca. 400-300 BCE). 
To the right of the Minoan Disc discovered in 1898, we see an analytical geometric diagram of the Labrys, one of the hallmark concrete symbols of both the Minoan & Mycenaean Civilizations.  Here again, we can clearly see that the Minoans & Mycenaeans had encoded into the Labrys precise calculations of not only the lunar year (13 cycles) but of the solar year as well... an atypical and astonishing achievement for any ancient civilization.  There appears to be a remarkable correlation of the functions of these two Minoan/Mycenaean instruments of calculation and measurement.   

To read the source article, click on this logo:

ArchaeologyNewsNetwork         

However, a word of warning about the so-called Minoan computer!

In rogueclassicism – quidquid bene dictum est ab ullo, meum est.  “Whatever anyone else has said well, I also have put into words.” (Translation mine)  

Minoan Antikythera Mechanism?

we find the following observation, “... Tsikritsis ... passim ... sees this — apparently — as a 25 tooth gear of some sort. One of the gears in the Antikythera Mechanism’s ‘sun-moon assembly’ has 24 teeth, so potentially this is a somewhat less ‘sophisticated’ ... method of calculation ...  it would be interesting to know the diameter of this ‘gear’ ... in order to try and figure out how large the ‘minoan mechanism’ [is] ... perhaps we should suspicious because Tsikritsis apparently also claims to have translated/decoded Linear A ... I think we’ll defer judgement on this one … 

Perhaps we should.   This still leaves us with the question, What is “Antikythera Mechanism”?  For without knowing that, it is well-nigh impossible to conjure any meaningful conception of this enigmatic Minoan Disc. We will discuss the  Antikythera Mechanism in the next post, which you will be reading first at any rate.

Richard

 
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