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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jun 7, 2006 10:02:36 GMT -6
Researchers find hidden Greek text on 'world's oldest astronomy computer'
The size of a shoebox, a mysterious bronze device scooped out of a Roman-era shipwreck at the dawn of the 20th century has baffled scientists for years. Now a British researcher has stunningly established it as the world's oldest surviving astronomy computer
A team of Greek and British scientists probing the secrets of the Antikythera Mechanism has managed to decipher ancient Greek inscriptions unseen for over 2,000 years, members of the project say.
"Part of the text on the machine, over 1,000 characters, had already been deciphered, but we have succeeded in doubling this total," said physician Yiannis Bitsakis, part of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from universities in Athens, Salonika and Cardiff, the Athens National Archaeological Museum and the Hewlett-Packard company.
"We have now deciphered 95 percent of the text," he told AFP.
Scooped out of a Roman shipwreck located in 1900 by sponge divers near the southern Greek island of Antikythera, and kept at the Athens National Archaeological Museum, the Mechanism contains over 30 bronze wheels and dials, and is covered in astronomical inscriptions.
Probably operated by crank, it survives in three main pieces and some smaller fragments.
"(The device) could calculate the position of certain stars, at least the Sun and Moon, and perhaps predict astronomical phenomena," said astrophysicist Xenophon Moussas of Athens University.