Cosmic Research Tool Utilized to Investigate the Purpose of the Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek device often referred to as the world’s first analog computer, has been the subject of a new study that questions the fundamental assumptions about its workings. In a departure from traditional archaeological methods, the researchers used techniques from gravitational wave astronomy to unlock the secrets of this 2,200-year-old device. The study, published in The Horological Journal, posits that the mechanism’s calendar ring, previously assumed to represent a solar year of 365 days, might in fact correspond to a lunar year of 354 days. This suggests that the device was far more advanced than previously believed, potentially upending our understanding of ancient Greek astronomy and technology.

However, this new interpretation is not without its critics. Some experts argue that the device already includes a more precise lunar calendar based on the 19-year Metonic cycle, making a second lunar calendar redundant. They maintain that the calendar ring is a solution to the “mathematically finicky” solar year, which lasts 365.24 days, and that it was manually adjusted every four years to keep it accurate.

The debate over the calendar ring began with a study in 2020 that first proposed the lunar calendar theory. The new study further challenges the solar model by applying methods used in gravitational wave astronomy, which deals with the detection of subtle ripples in space-time caused by cosmic events. The researchers ran measurements of the remaining holes in the calendar ring through their astronomical software, which strongly suggested a complete ring with 354 holes.

Despite the new findings, some experts remain skeptical. While they do not dispute the estimate of 354 holes, they question the lack of supporting evidence for a redundant lunar calendar within the mechanism. They argue that the purpose and function of the calendar ring and its relation to other parts of the device remain unclear.

The Antikythera mechanism, discovered in a shipwreck near a Greek island in 1901, continues to fascinate researchers with its intricate design. Its complex network of gears and dials modelled the cosmos of the second century BC, tracking celestial cycles and predicting events like eclipses and the ancient Olympics. This latest study adds a new layer to the ongoing mystery of this ancient device, highlighting its dynamic nature and the potential for further discoveries.

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