The Inscriptions of the Antikythera Mechanism
June 13, 2016 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Researchers have decoded more writing on the 2,000-year-old Antikythera mechanism and found it may have an astrological purpose

See also
The dial at the center of the front face of the Antikythera Mechanism was surrounded by two scales, one representing the zodiac, the other the Egyptian calendar year. The Zodiac Scale was inscribed with the names of the zodiacal signs as well as series of index letters in alphabetic order, while the Egyptian Calendar Scale was inscribed with the Greek names of the Egyptian months. In addition, two rectangular plates, the remains of which survived displaced from their original positions, bore an inscription, called the Parapegma Inscription, comprising an alphabetically indexed list of annually repeating astronomical events relating to the Sun and to fixed stars. This paper gives transcriptions and translations of the inscriptions on the dial scales and the Parapegma Inscription, and deduces the original structure, layout, and location of the Parapegma Inscription. A provisional astronomical analysis of the data in the Parapegma Inscription and tentative restorations of some of its damaged and missing lines are also provided.
The Inscriptions of the Antikythera Mechanism
posted by y2karl (28 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 


I'm just sad it doesn't say "Your free upgrade to Wheels 10 is ready!"

(I jest, but really this is amazing.)
posted by The River Ivel at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


There's a great NOVA episode about it from 2013.
posted by atomicstone at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Hi, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkeIn."
posted by b1tr0t at 11:54 AM on June 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Quick to the Hat Signal:

So, what is the Attic for What's your sign, anyway ?
posted by y2karl at 12:06 PM on June 13, 2016


"Your shoes will make you happy today."
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:26 PM on June 13, 2016


> So, what is the Attic for What's your sign, anyway ?

Τί εἶναι τὸ σημεῖον σον;
posted by languagehat at 12:28 PM on June 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


(The Greeks use ; for a question mark.)
posted by languagehat at 12:28 PM on June 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Be [lacuna] to drink your [undecipherable]"

perhaps future generations will solve this enduring mystery
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:32 PM on June 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


languagehat, they also use finite verb forms for, well, finite verbs: τί ἐστι τὸ σημεῖόν σου;
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The world's oldest emoji keyboard.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2016


Τί εἶναι τὸ σημεῖον σον;

!;
posted by y2karl at 1:00 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Be [lacuna] to drink your [undecipherable]"

perhaps future generations will solve this enduring mystery


"There Will Be Blood" allusion.

"Here, if you have a [undecipherable], and I have a [undecipherable], and I have a [lacuna]. There it is, that's a [lacuna], you see? Watch it. Now, my [lacuna] reaches across the room and starts to drink your [undecipherable]. I—drink—your—[undecipherable]!"
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:18 PM on June 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


In all seriousness, this should be a major reminder not to consider preindustrial peoples primitive or crude.

I also have to wonder what else the Greeks of the time were capable of with just gearing, mathematics, and muscle power. What other marvels could have been lost to time?
posted by happyroach at 1:22 PM on June 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Maybe there are many other marvels that have only been lost to time so far.

(Archaeologists please keep digging!)
posted by bukvich at 1:39 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I sure hope we figure out how this thing works before the Kythera shows up.
/s
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:42 PM on June 13, 2016 [39 favorites]


I sure hope we figure out how this thing works before the Kythera shows up.

Well, first we need to find five giant clockwork lions...
posted by happyroach at 2:07 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Who knows, they may have had dividing engines, and all sorts of other things just shy of the industrial revolution back in 205 BC. I wonder what other technology was lost along the way.
posted by MikeWarot at 3:46 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


> languagehat, they also use finite verb forms for, well, finite verbs: τί ἐστι τὸ σημεῖόν σου;

Oimoi! How did I do that?? I was thinking "be = einai" and then I lost track of the whole grammar thing. Thanks for fixing it!
posted by languagehat at 4:53 PM on June 13, 2016


Who knows, they may have had dividing engines, and all sorts of other things just shy of the industrial revolution back in 205 BC. I wonder what other technology was lost along the way.

Karolos Babbagopolis?
posted by tobascodagama at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2016



People wonder whether perhaps the Greeks had other, fancier devices that didn't make it through the ages or leave a trace.

It makes me think of Mesoamericans and the wheel.

What if instead their sociocultural perspective prevented more practical (to our modern eyes) uses of advanced mechanics? Why build working machines when you have slaves? It would be funny if the only common implementation of such technical expertise was for the sake of ritual or frivolity.
posted by constantinescharity at 10:37 PM on June 13, 2016


It doesn't seem likely that the Antikythera mechanism was the sole device of such complexity. But where are the others?
posted by Harald74 at 12:28 AM on June 14, 2016


Re: Mesoamericans and the wheel, last I checked there was plenty of evidence of wheeled toys and things of that nature. So they obviously figured out the wheel (obviously, I mean it's not a difficult concept in any way, nor does it require access to rare materials or any significant preliminary technology), they just never used it for transportation. Which, if you look at the terrain covered by most of these empires, starts to make a lot of sense. Much of it is difficult if not impossible to cross using wheeled vehicles now.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:54 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just came in to say that a as a Greek I find it sad that a lot of visitors skip the fantastic, undersold National Archaelogical Museum in Athens. Last time I visited (prob ~10 yrs ago at this point, I dont live in the city) the Antikythera Mechanism was stuffed in a display case in a corner of a large room. Same for the fantastic Death Mask of Agamemnon and countless other exhibits that in any other country would be the center pieces of a museum in their own right.
posted by costas at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not quite a division engine, but that comment reminded me of the oldest discovered decimal based times table dating to ~305 BCE.
posted by porpoise at 4:37 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Greece may have the oldest mechanical computer,

but Ireland has 2000 year old peat bog butter
posted by zippy at 10:26 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Last time I visited (prob ~10 yrs ago at this point, I dont live in the city) the Antikythera Mechanism was stuffed in a display case in a corner of a large room.

Last time there was a while exhibit about it complete with other pieces found and an exhibition about what was going on in nearby areas at the time. Quite good actually.
posted by ersatz at 8:49 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


> How did I do that??

I just realized how: I was thinking of Modern Greek.
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on June 18, 2016


« Older "Cats can hurt your feelings too" & other...   |   “I’m 60 years old and I can’t remember anything... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments