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!