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Antikythera Mechanism

August 21, 2008

An ancient astronomical calculator had a dedicated calendar for the Olympics and other games.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
An ancient high-tech calendar. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

To find out if it was an Olympic year, ancient Greek techno-philes could check a mechanical calendar, known today as the Antikythera Mechanism. It was built around 150 to 100 B.C., and used dials and gears to track the Sun, moon, and planets through the sky with remarkable accuracy. Astrophysicist Mike Edmunds of the University of Cardiff in the UK is part of an international team studying the device. He says a newly deciphered dial was devoted to big sporting events.

MIKE EDMUNDS (University of Cardiff):
And it would go on a four-year cycle to indicate which particular of the important Greek games would be held. There were other ones as well, apart from the Olympian ones.

HIRSHON:
Since there were much simpler ways to know that, the sports dial suggests the machine may have had some kind of public or social function. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.