Monday, June 27, 2011

Antikythera Mechanism - Nonfiction

As I was opening and closing closet doors in my brain this morning, looking for story ideas, I came across one of those fascinatingly nerdy topics; machines from the Hellenistic period. I read a book several years ago (and, of course, can't recall the title) on ancient Alexandria, and there were several chapters devoted to navigation equipment, celestial globes, clockwork devices, automata, even some sort of vending machine which dispensed candles for temple worshippers. I first learned of the Antikythera device when the Discovery channel ran a special on it some years ago, and was lucky enough to see a replica at the National Watch and Clock Museum here in the states.

Briefly, it was discovered by divers on a wreck near the island of Antikythera in 1900-1901. The gears appeared to be so complex that it was thought to be an artifact from a much later time period than the rest of the salvaged items. It has since been tentatively dated to 150 to 100 BC, although its mechanics and sophistication are said to be as good as Swiss clocks of the 1800s.

It appears to have been a fairly complex type of analog computer for calculating dates, planetary movements, eclipses, etc. The extra quarter day of the solar year was compensated for by turning a dial back by one day every four years (our 'leap' day).

Research and analysis are still ongoing; you can see images and more complete info at the site
Antikythera Research Project .

I'd love to conjure up a short story or two set in ancient Alexandria. We have steampunk; is there a term for futuristic ancient history mashups? Maybe some day, when I have the time to put in the necessary research and prep. For now, that idea goes back into the closet........

Happy Monday everyone. Now, go back to work! 


  1. Most interesting! Good luck with the MRI - I think I wouldn't mind that if I could go in feet first. However, I have no need (at present) for an MRI.
    Congratulations on the Seedpod acceptance:-)

  2. I think there's definitely an audience for "ancient-punk" -- very cool. And congrats on the Seedpod acceptance!

  3. Hope your shoulder is better! Congratulations on your acceptance to Seedpod. Though I am so NOT surprised it was your writing. :)

  4. Great news about your up-coming publication, and I think the term "ancient-punk" rules! So sorry to hear of your health woes, I sure hope this will soon improve - I'm sending all the warm vibes I can muster!

  5. An ancient holy candle vending machine is my favorite idea I've heard all week.

    Hope the MRI yields good news!

  6. Great post! That is so interesting. So I wonder what happened between that time (so advanced and accurate)and say the 1800s? With your incredible writing skills and imagination I am sure you could come up with some terrific stories around that time period!

    Hope the MRI went well and you get some answers on your shoulder. I had my MRI done about 3 weeks ago and ended up getting taken out of work for a while! I thought the MRI was pretty cool although very noisy.

    Congrats on your upcoming publication! I am so excited for you!

    Take care and hope you are doing well!

  7. It really is a very interesting and if novel requires a lot of documentation and work. I wish you a speedy recovery of your health problems.

  8. Isn't the Antikythera device just the most incredible thing?? I remember watching an interesting video about modern attempts to replicate it.

    I hope you solve your shoulder problems, I know how awful they can be. I used to have chronic neck and shoulder pain but got a Tempur pillow and it was greatly relieved. I remember being awed at being able to sleep through the night and actually dreaming!

  9. The image you embedded in this post is not showing up. Maybe it's been removed?

    1. I'll correct it. I use a lot of photos from wikimedia commons and Flikr (with permission) but if the owner removes them...I usually don't know about it. Thanks for letting me know!