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Home » Aliens, ancient archeology, Editorial Articles, Featured, Headline, Latest Evidence, Lost City, Mystery of History, Research & Science

The Antikythera Mechanism, And Early Technology

Submitted by on June 23, 2014 – 6:20 PM10 Comments | 3,328 views

So, one of our faithful followers called me to task not long ago.

RednGreen had this comment on an article about an OOPArt or Out Of Place Artifact called the Nampa Figurine because I opened the article with a bit about the Antikythera Mechanism, but did not elaborate.

So… what about the Antikythera mechanism? If YOU find it fascinating, I want to hear more. You always manage to post something with lots of potential mystery and then drain every drop of fun right out of it.

Well, I do find it fascinating. That does not make it evidence of alien technology, or human technology far in advance of what we have today, or what we are supposed to have had at the time it was probably made.
And so I will open this article with a bit about…

The Ulfberht Sword.

Ulfberht is a name given to unique Viking swords used in Scandinavia around 800–1000 AD. The unique, high-quality steel they incorporated remained unparalleled until the Industrial Revolution.

The Ulfberht swords (there are more than one) were forged with a process unknown in northern Europe in the 9th century, which makes it a very curious item. Though the process was unknown in Europe, it was not unknown to human ingenuity and had been in use in India. If one craftsman had devised the method in parallel to a culture far away, or had learned it through travel or some other contact with another craftsman who was in the know is unknown. We do not even know for certain the name of the man, or men who made these swords. I mention it because it is an example of one manner in which an item we believe should not exist, at least in a given location, does exist with a perfectly feasible explanation.

Enough baiting Red, and on to the Antikythera.

What IS the Antikythera Mechanism?

An ancient analog computer designed to predict astronomical positions and eclipses. It was recovered in 1900–01 from the Antikythera wreck, a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. The computer’s construction has been attributed to the Greeks and dated to the early 1st century BC. Technological artifacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks began to be built in Western Europe.

The manufacture of this computer clearly demonstrates an unparalleled level of skill for its day. For a detailed description you can go to Antikythera-Mechanism.com. But I will say current evidence suggests the mechanism dates to as early as 150 Bc. This is why some people who have learned of it only superficially will make claims that it represents some sort of alien intervention in our development, or time travel, or other such nonsense. Let us begin with Aristarchus of Samos who had accurately determined roughly 150 years before the earliest dating of the Antikythera had determined that the Earth orbited the Sun, rather than the other way around, as had been previously thought. As well, he accurately positioned the other known planets in their order of distance from the sun.

During Aristarchus’ lifetime, another discovery was made, by Eratosthenes of Cyrene. It was Eratosthenes who first, accurately within reason considering his methods, calculated the circumference of the Earth. proving long before Columbus (erroneously and foolishly given the credit in grade school text books), that the Earth was in fact round. The point being that the mathematics of the motion of celestial bodies was being studied and improved upon long before the manufacture of the Antikythera, so that aspect of its design was well within the capabilities of the thinkers of even its earliest possible date.

I will admit to a little bit of supposition in the following, but it is not outrageous supposition, and certainly not outside the realm of possibility. I could do this today with no more tools than existed at the time. One aspect of the nature of the Antikythera that causes people to presume upon aliens and time travelers for its manufacture is the precision of its mechanism. First of all lets have a look at the mechanism.

There is a certain amount of presumption on their part as well. Add to that a word from researchers who have actually physically studied it:

The researchers note that the inevitable “looseness” in the mechanism due to the hand-built gears with their triangular teeth and the frictions between gears and in bearing surfaces would have probably swamped the finer solar and lunar correction mechanisms built into it:

Though the engineering was remarkable for its era, recent research indicates that its design conception exceeded the engineering precision of its manufacture by a wide margin—with considerable accumulative inaccuracies in the gear trains, which would have cancelled out many of the subtle anomaly corrections built into its design.

Now to my own supposition. It takes a level of technology not in existence at the time of the Antikythera to produce gears accurately. This is what seems to be at the heart of the reason for crediting aliens and time travelers. The mathematics was in place to design them, but production is another matter. I should however restate the first statement. It takes a high level of technology to mass produce gears accurately. Making a one-off device, or even a few of them is another matter. Given the circumference of a particular gear, and size and spacing of the teeth it is a pretty simple matter to create a jig consisting of one tooth, and one valley (it would look rather like a letter  Z ) which will allow you to create a gear accurate enough to meet the description of the researchers above. Once you have cut your first groove, you place that groove on the tooth of the jig, and cut the next groove. Repeat. Provided your jig is accurate, your gear will come out with consistent and evenly spaced teeth. It may have taken a few tries to get it right, you might have to make more than one jig to account for wear on the original, but it is all possible and feasible. Just because we have in hand a finished mechanism, does not mean that there could not have been a dozen failed attempts.

No time travel needed, no alien technology.  And RednGreen, as for draining every drop of fun right out of a subject? As I said in that other thread, that is just an occupational hazard with thinking rationally about mysteries. Answers are rarely as fun as mysteries. I do not presume to have the answer here, but if I can propose a feasible one, an answer not outside the technology of the time, then that takes a lot out of the argument for aliens and time travelers, hollow earth civilizations and Atlanteans. That puts the answer right back in our own Human lap and tells us something about how extraordinary our ancestors were with what they had.

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Henry Paterson

Editor at GhostTheory
I would like nothing more than the proof of various cryptids, alien civilizations, even alien visitors to be found. But that proof will come only through rigorous science and objective analysis, and by holding evidence to the highest standards of scrutiny. Born in south eastern Pennsylvania, i have found myself at one time or another living in Chicago, Cleveland, Raleigh-Durham, on the island of Kaua'i and finally landed on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. I have turned my hand to various professions from early work in 3d graphics to historic building restoration, carpentry and log home building to working in a bronze art foundry on the WWII Veterans Memorial. Currently I am a writer, script writer and working for a non profit organization called Empowerment Through Connection which is involved in equine assisted therapy for veterans, at risk teens and women.

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  • radioredrafts

    ” It may have taken a few tries to get it right”

    My grandfather was a machinist. He would tell you that to get those gears accurately made would involve working with mechanical tolerances down to ten-thousandths of a centimeter. The maker would have needed more than just a few tries if the machine is truly about what the article says–he would’ve also needed a way to measure those tolerancees, or a highly implausible amount of luck.

  • http://GhostTheory.com/ Henry

    And the people who studied them have said:

    “…with considerable accumulative inaccuracies in the gear trains, which
    would have cancelled out many of the subtle anomaly corrections built
    into its design.”

  • RednGreen

    Nice article! While I am more open minded than most, I flat out do not believe in time travelers and I find the idea that aliens intervened and provided early man with info and technology almost just as unlikely.

    I am, however, completely fascinated by the technology our ancestors were able to come up with. And I especially enjoy info on technology that seems to have emerged long before “we” had that kind of capability or knowledge.

    Well done and thanks Henry!

  • http://GhostTheory.com/ Henry

    Thank you for prompting me to finally get around to this subject : )

  • http://GhostTheory.com/ Henry

    Ten thousandths of a centimeter.

    http://youtu.be/3dRJsB-zf6I

  • RJ

    Assuming that people in the past were stupid is itself as stupid idea.

    They may not have known as much as us, nor have been as efficient in their methods as us today, but that doesn’t mean they were stupid. Ancient Romans built aqueducts, and roads that are still standing today, that’s not the mark of a group of stupid people who don’t know what they’re doing. They were pretty darn clever.

    If you’ve got nothing but time, you’d be surprised what you can figure out and learn how to do. Likewise, with something like the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt for example, those who suggest that we didn’t build them, always point out the famous ones at Giza because those pyramids look good, you never hear about the “Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Blooper Real”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Snefru%27s_Bent_Pyramid_in_Dahshur.jpg

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PyramidOfUserkaf.jpg

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Menkaures_Pyramid_Giza_Egypt.jpg

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e4/Pyramid_of_sneferu_Meidum_01.jpg

    (And there are lots more…)

    Which shows that for a very long time before the Pyramids of Giza, the Ancient Egyptians didn’t know what they were doing in the slightest and had a lot of trial and error. Either that, or Aliens with advanced technology allowing them to travel the across stars can’t get simple angles correct, or put a top on a pyramid correctly, or not even build a pyramid without a giant gash going through it…

    It doesn’t take a genius to create the Antikythera Mechanism. It could even be made today in a garage with tools that would have been available to people in the Ancient World. It isn’t a very complicated device. If anything, it shows how stupid we are today considering how long it took us to figure out how it worked.

    If we found a modern cellphone buried in an Ancient Roman archaeological site, or a modern firearm which really does need tolerances down to the nano-meter, they we’d have something interesting to talk about.

  • http://5uperman.com/ 5uperman

    Based on the images I have seen and the x-rays, I completely fail to understand how it could be “An ancient analog computer designed to predict astronomical positions and eclipses”. I have never heard of anyone actually proving it to be accurate. The so called reconstruction is a computer model. Does that model actually work and accurately predict?
    The alien thing is always a bit stupid. To believe it you need to believe that aliens traveled many light years across space with amazing technology and they gave man the gift of errr gear cogs which we already had. Thanks aliens

  • http://5uperman.com/ 5uperman

    Surely they can say whatever they want. Until they build an identical copy and prove it works again and again, it is merely a theory at best. After all, that is science.

  • http://GhostTheory.com/ Henry

    A working model has been constructed based on study of the existing model and projection of the missing parts. It is found to work, but inaccurately.

  • http://5uperman.com/ 5uperman

    How can it work inaccurately? Do you have links? I read up on this a while back and didnt find anything to support any of these claims. Again, they seem to be assuming they know what parts are missing. How can they know this? It all seemed as if they were trying to make it fit their own hypothesis.
    Not that something of a technical nature couldnt be made, I just need to look at the complexity of early clocks to see how they can make such amazing machinery so long ago.