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Montag, 4. August 2014

A new expedition to the Antikythera Device

One reader has pointed out to me that a new expedition to the Roman shipwreck from which the Antikythera Mechanism was salvaged in 1901 will be launched next September. The website of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture expresses the hope that these dives will help to locate other parts of the mechanism, known only in fragments, or even a second mechanism:
"Meanwhile, ancient technology geeks like us wonder whether the site might be hiding another Antikythera mechanism, more pieces of the original, or at least some clues as to whom this mysterious object belonged to." http://antikythera.whoi.edu/about/

This information, which was reprinted in various media, was in my opinion a misunderstanding by a journalist. Some sources claimed that a part of the original Antikythera Mechanism which has been designated fragment D does not belong to the device at all and may therefore be attributable to another device. Here, the sources are not correctly quoted: Fragment D has a single gearwheel that cannot be assigned and is therefore usually omitted in modern reconstructions of the mechanism. Michael Wright, one of the best-known reconstructors, has suggested that this gear may have linked to other transmission parts that moved pointers for the planets Mercury to Saturn across the mechanism's scales - the parts known were used only for displaying the positionf of Sun and Moon and their eclipses in the past or future. This gear gives reason to hope that further parts of the Antikythera Mechanism may still be hidden near the wreck, 60 m below the surface of the sea. There is no evidence that would suggest the existence of a second device on board, however!

In any case, I will follow news of the expedition and comment on them on this blog.