The mechanism was probably not used for navigation but perhaps served more as a beautiful representation of an ordered, clockwork universe. "Something to elevate the spirit and get closer to God or the true meaning of things," as Marchant put it during a talk at the Royal Institution in London last night.
So what about the new stuff? Research from Prof Alexander Jones of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York, which has yet to be published, suggests that rather than dating from the 1st century BC the Antikythera mechanism may in fact have been constructed in the preceding century.
The new data concerns the four-year Olympiad dial, which has the names of significant Greek games etched into it – Isthmia, Olympia, Nemea, Pythia and Naa (plus one other that hasn't been deciphered). The first four were major games known throughout the ancient world, but the Naa games, held near Dodona in northwest Greece, were a much more provincial affair that would only have been of local interest. "One possibility is that it was made by or for somebody in Naa," said Marchant, who described the clockwork computer on the Guardian's Science Weekly podcast last year.
Sunday, August 02, 2009