Skip to comments.Ancient astronomy: Mechanical inspiration
Posted on 11/25/2010 2:11:38 AM PST by Palter
The ancient Greeks' vision of a geometrical Universe seemed to come out of nowhere. Could their ideas have come from the internal gearing of an ancient mechanism?
Two thousand years ago, a Greek mechanic set out to build a machine that would model the workings of the known Universe. The result was a complex clockwork mechanism that displayed the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets on precisely marked dials. By turning a handle, the creator could watch his tiny celestial bodies trace their undulating paths through the sky.
The mechanic's name is now lost. But his machine, dubbed the Antikythera mechanism, is by far the most technologically sophisticated artefact that survives from antiquity. Since a reconstruction of the device hit the headlines in 2006, it has revolutionized ideas about the technology of the ancient world, and has captured the public imagination as the apparent pinnacle of Greek scientific achievement.
Now, however, scientists delving into the astronomical theories encoded in this quintessentially Greek device have concluded that they are not Greek at all, but Babylonian an empire predating this era by centuries. This finding is forcing historians to rethink a crucial period in the development of astronomy. It may well be that geared devices such as the Antikythera mechanism did not model the Greeks' geometric view of the cosmos after all. They inspired it.
The remains of the Antikythera mechanism were salvaged from a shipwreck in 1901 (see 'Celestial mirror from the deep') and are now held in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
(Excerpt) Read more at nature.com ...
Antikythera mechanism, etc.
It’s not so far-fetched. After all, the Greeks learned writing from the Phoenicians, so why couldn’t they have picked up an astronomical calender from the Babylonians? I’m referring to the time line, not the device itself. Few cultures exist in isolation, and the Greeks certainly did not.
Also on the back it reads “Made in Sparta!”
This is SPARTA!!!
I am purely guessing but by using the original Greek names for the Gods=Planets makes me think that Hermes = Mercury is at the bottom and working our way clockwise are Aphrodite/Venus, Ares/Mars, Zeus/Jupiter and Kronos/Saturn. I await any correction.
I wonder what Von Daniken alien actually constructed this [/sarc].
Our collective ancestors were SMART and we should be THANKFUL (Thanksgiving Day) for their very real achievements. As Sir Isaac Newton famously wrote “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
It makes sense that people who were good at mechanics, and who also studied astronomy, would try to mechanically replicate the motions on the planets, sun, and moon. The Greeks and Babylonians probably tried out all kinds of gearing. The more accurate the results the more likely the device would be reproduced and put into use. The internal workings of an accurate device would be pleasing to those involved in either field. And it seems likely that astronomical theories would be influenced by any really good mechanical device.
Astronomy, mechanics, and calendars are all tied in together - an area of fascination to me.
Ptolemy absolutely and unequivocally refers to Babylonian observations in Almagest, citing Hipparchus as his source. He also teachs and advocates the Babylonian base 60 number system in the same volume for making calculations, the alternate number systems in use in those days (similar to Roman numbers) were too cumbersome for calculations. The Babylonians kept records of planetary and eclipse observations going back for a couple of millenia by Ptolemy’s time. We are closer in time to Ptolemy than he was to his sources.
The Babylonians never figured out the precession of the equinoxes, something that Hipparchus understood and may have actually discovered. They did know about the variable speed of the sun, basing it on observations of lunar eclipses over many centuries, and correctly deducing that the position of the sun during a lunar eclipse must be opposite the moon, as viewed from the earth.
Well, looking at history as put forth Biblically, this knowledge came out of Babylon with Abrahm, an astrologer/astronomer, who taught this art to the Egyptians. On that basis I’d say the Greeks acquired it via Egypt, much as they acquired written language via Phoenicians.
Amen to that brother. I often think about how smart and resourceful our ancestors must have been. These people figured out how to survive the Ice Age with only stone tools. I wonder how many people living today could figure out how do that?
Nowhere? I pretty much stopped reading there. The author is obviously misinformed.
Maybe it came out of a few simple observations, and a little out "of the box" thinking? The observations: The sun is round, the moon is round, the stars are round, the planets are round. The moon revolves around the earth, the sun (seems to) revolve around the earth, the planets (seem to) revolve around the earth, the stars (seem to) revolve around the earth. The out "of the box" thinking: maybe the earth is round, too? Maybe the celestial bodies are a long way away, and revolve around something else?
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World's oldest telescope?According to Professor Giovanni Pettinato of the University of Rome, a rock crystal lens, currently on show in the British museum, could rewrite the history of science. He believes that it could explain why the ancient Assyrians knew so much about astronomy. It is a theory many scientists might be prepared to accept, but the idea that the rock crystal was part of a telescope is something else. To get from a lens to a telescope, they say, is an enormous leap. Professor Pettinato counters by asking for an explanation of how the ancient Assyrians regarded the planet Saturn as a god surrounded by a ring of serpents?
by Dr David Whitehouse
Thursday, July 1, 1999
.....If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants......
My precise thought. The machine, unbuildable by the Babylonians, was made by a Greek to express dynamically that which was well known but presented statically.
I’ve not been impressed over the years with the level of discussion about the Antikythera mechanism (not that anyone asked me of course), but there’s nothing in the working replica of it to indicate that it’s based on anything but a fairly short period of observations done more or less locally (Aegean), and given that it’s a maritime culture, probably wasn’t built for ceremonial purposes, but as an aid to figure out the tides.
There’s a topic on FR about recent finds on the thing, including Greek place names, and the claim that it was used to figure out when the Olympics were going to take place. I’m pretty sure though that the Greeks knew how to count to four, and wouldn’t need a machine to tell them when to hold the Olympics.
The problem with the thing is that it’s unique; the exact date of its construction has been debated over the years, but the range of years during which its mechanism would have been accurate shows when it was made (probably on the early end of that range).
“I often think about how smart and resourceful our ancestors must have been. These people figured out how to survive the Ice Age with only stone tools. I wonder how many people living today could figure out how do that?”
The dumb and unresourceful ones perished or were supported by the smart and resourceful. It obviously isn’t as if the entire tribe of man was smart and resourceful at the time....
Same events are happening today; how many people do you know that are almost incapable of surviving in today’s society unless they have someone around them almost literally holding their hand?
ping for later reading
I suspect during the centuries of the last Ice Age the human population level became very low, maybe only 5000 people at the end. I’m not sure the smart and resourceful people would have tolerated supporting too many dumb and unresourceful people. We may never know.
From http://sites.google.com/site/archaicaudio/archaicaudio/vintage-computers, where there are lots of wonderful mugshots of ancient (20th c) technological devices. :)
Recommended reading, Krupp’s “Echoes of the Ancient Skies.” Great survey of archaeoastronomy for those not so heavily addicted to the subject.
(For those who are....Hamlet’s Mill, hands down!)
EAS is more general and leans toward archaeological evidence in various cultures.
I trust that graphic is just a theoretical reconstruction, because it’s got Venus in opposition to the Sun and from a geocentric perspective, dat don’t happen! Just sayin. ;)
Since King Solomin was smelting copper a thousand years before the Antikythera mechanism (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2632982/posts)
it doesn’t seem at all unlikely that someone could make a brass mechanism a thousand years later.
A number of more modern craftmen produced fine results with simple tools and steady hands.
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