Home Interior Design What is the Antikythera Mechanism, the mysterious ancient Greek device in the new ‘Indiana Jones’ movie? Here are 5 big questions, answered

What is the Antikythera Mechanism, the mysterious ancient Greek device in the new ‘Indiana Jones’ movie? Here are 5 big questions, answered

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Returning to the screen as a cloak-and-dagger archaeologist for the fifth and final time in Indiana Jones and the Dial of FateHarrison Ford was moved to tears at Cannes last week by the public’s reaction to one of his most famous film characters, calling him “indescribable”. But what exactly is the titular “Dial of Destiny” that Indy seeks in his latest adventure?

Joined by his goddaughter Helena Shaw (played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Jones is on the hunt for a mysterious object based on the Antikythera Mechanism, a genuine antiquity that now resides in the collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Highly mysterious in itself, the ancient Greek device rewrote tech history when it was discovered in 1901, as part of a shipwreck discovered by sponge divers off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Crete and the Peloponnese. It is believed to have been used by ancient astronomers to track the movement of celestial bodies and predict eclipses, the object has been described as the oldest known analog computer.

Teddy (Ethann Isidore), Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) in Lucas-film’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate. Photo: ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved.

In the film, we learn that during World War II, Jones and his colleague Basil Shaw (played in flashbacks by Toby Jones) prevented Nazi scientist Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) from gaining possession of the powerful device. Like classic blockbusters, the Curious Antiquity is actually a powerful astronomical tool that allows its possessor to travel through time.

The film’s main action takes place a quarter of a century later, when the US government enlists ex-Nazis to win the space race, and Voller, who remains in search of the Antikythera, is on the scene. NASA job. His character is partly inspired by former Nazi Wernher von Braun, who actually worked on the Apollo lunar mission.

Directed by James Mangold (girl interrupted; walk the line; 3h10 to Yuma), dial of fate hits theaters on June 30. He received mixed reviews from criticsbut Vulture‘s Bilge Ebiri called it “too entertaining to dismiss”.

What is certainly too fascinating to pass up is the story of the current Antikythera Mechanism, around which the film’s fictional plot revolves.

Here are 5 questions about the mysterious device answered, for fans of archeology and antiquity on the big screen and in real life.

What exactly is the Antikythera mechanism?

Hand-operated orrery, or model of the solar system, the Antikythera Mechanism has been described as the oldest example of an analog computer. Various dates have been proposed for its manufacture, ranging from 205 BCE to 87 BCE, from the the wreck in which the object was found is believed to have occurred between 70 and 60 BCE

No evidence of such a complex astronomical clock would appear in the archaeological record for more than a millennium. Curiously, some experts speculate that such a complex and high-quality object may have had as yet unknown precursors.

That he has done?

It is widely believed that ancient Hellenic scientists devised the mechanism, as it is based on the theories of astronomy and mathematics developed by the Greeks in the second century BCE.

Some evidence suggests it came from the island of Rhodes: the shipwreck also yielded vases in the style of those created on the island, where the Stoic philosopher Posidonius headed an academy. This theory is supported by the fact that the astronomer Hipparchus came from Rhodes, and in fact the mechanism uses his ideas about the movement of the Moon.

The Antikythera Mechanism. Via Wikimedia Commons.

How did it work?

The device, just over a foot tall, is badly deteriorated after spending centuries underwater and is separated into at least 82 fragments. It features at least four gears and numerous inscriptions, leading some scholars to suggest that it once had some 37 interconnected bronze gears that enabled it to track the moon and sun through the zodiac, predict eclipses, and to model the moon’s irregular orbit.

A crank, now lost, was connected to the larger gear. It spun the interlocking gears within, simultaneously calculating the position of the Sun and Moon decades in advance, as well as indicating the phase of the moon, eclipse and calendar cycles – and can -be even give the locations of the five planets that the Greeks knew. about.

How did it come to light?

It was one of the treasures recovered from the wreck of a Greek ship off the island of Antikythera, first identified by sponge divers in 1900. During the first major archaeological expedition under -marine, the Royal Greek Navy extracted hundreds of works of art from it, including three lives of marble horses and a seven-foot-tall statue of Hercules, as well as jewelry, coins, glassware and other treasures, all of which went to the Archaeological Museum. They were all showing there in 2012-2014.

When was its technical complexity revealed?

Initially appearing as nothing more than an indistinguishable block of wood and metal, the device languished for decades in storage. An archaeologist claimed it was an astronomical clock when he identified a gear in the mechanism in 1902, but experts doubted such a complex mechanism could date from so early.

It was not until a science historian from Yale University published an article on the mechanism in 1974 that its function became widely known. Two years later, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau removed hundreds more artifacts from the wreck, along with human remains.

Due to the challenges posed by its depth and location, much of the site remains unexplored. Nevertheless, divers have been returning to the site for more than a decade in hopes of finding more parts of the mechanism.

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