Tags: antikythera | mechanism | computer | decipher

Antikythera Mechanism: Ancient Device Used as a Fortune-Telling 'Computer'?

Image: Antikythera Mechanism: Ancient Device Used as a Fortune-Telling 'Computer'?
Fragments of the ancient Antikythera Mechanism are displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece June 9, 2016. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

By    |   Wednesday, 15 Jun 2016 05:15 AM

The Antikythera Mechanism, a mysterious device discovered in an ancient shipwreck near Crete, has been partially deciphered and it seems it was used for astronomical and astrological purposes and may have been a sort of primitive computer, according to a new report.

Built nearly 2,100 years ago and discovered in 1901, scientists have long wondered what the contraption, made up of gears and cogs called the world's first computer, was used for, International Business Times reported.

Using state-of-the art scanning devices, scientists have decoded text in ancient Greek inscribed on the machine.

“It’s a lot of detail for us because it comes from a period from which we know very little about Greek astronomy and essentially nothing about the technology, except what we gather from here,” New York University historian Alexander Jones said, according to The Associated Press. “So these very small texts are a very big thing for us.”

The device was used to show the positions of the sun, moon, and planets and predict lunar and solar eclipses. Researchers think it may also have been used to predict the future, based on inscriptions referring to the color of a forthcoming eclipse, Reuters reported.

“We are not quite sure how to interpret this, to be fair, but it could hark back to suggestions that the color of an eclipse was some sort of omen or signal,” Cardiff University astrophysics professor Mike Edmunds said, according to Reuters. “Certain colors might be better for what’s coming than other color. If that is so, and we are interpreting that correctly, this is the first instance we have in the mechanism of any real mention of astrology rather than astronomy.”

But Jones said the device has more philosophical applications, according to the AP.

"It was not a research tool, something that an astronomer would use to do computations, or even an astrologer to do prognostications, but something that you would use to teach about the cosmos and our place in the cosmos," he said. "It's like a textbook of astronomy as it was understood then, which connected the movements of the sky and the planets with the lives of the ancient Greeks and their environment."

"I would see it as more something that might be a philosopher's instructional device."

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The Antikythera Mechanism, a mysterious device discovered in an ancient shipwreck near Crete, has been partially deciphered and it seems it was used for astronomical and astrological purposes and may have been a sort of primitive computer, according to a new report.
antikythera, mechanism, computer, decipher
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2016-15-15
Wednesday, 15 Jun 2016 05:15 AM
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