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But wait, there’s more…

Divers around the area where the Antikythera Mechanism was found have discovered what they believe to be another piece of it. In fact, there have been continuous diving expeditions to the wreck site, official and otherwise, and all sorts of interesting things have come out of the water (though nothing as spectacular as this).

To refresh: in 1909, Greek sponge divers brought found a bunch of things on a 2,000 year old wreck near the island of Antikythera, including an unremarkable chunk of crap. Many years later, someone thought to x-ray the chunk of crap and discovered it was the corroded remains of a small, incredibly complex gear-driven analogue celestial computer.

The image above is an exploded view via computer model of what they think it looked like. Some of the structure is speculative, but quite a lot of it has been confirmed to be present and to work.

From the first link above (which is a very interesting article; you should read it):

The Mechanism could do not only basic math: with dozens of exquisitely worked cogwheels, it could calculate the movements of the sun and moon, predict eclipses and equinoxes, and could be used to track the solar system planets, the constellations, and much more.

We may never know how many cogwheels the original Antikythera Mechanism had. Assessments based on its functions in predicting the behavior of the cosmos range from 37 to over 70. For comparison, the most advanced Swiss watches have four cogwheels.

They don’t know exactly what the new bit is. It looks like a backplate of some kind. Under x-ray, there’s an etched image of a bull, so it may have something to do with the constellation of Taurus. It may not even be part of the famous mechanism, but it is metallurgically similar. Was there more than one?

There were all kinds of other things on the wreck I hadn’t heard of before; it was a huge ship. Like 50 life-sized statues of Homeric figures, and the wreck happened at a time when they think Homer had gone out of style. Antiques Roadshow, Ancient Greek Edition? Who knows?

And don’t tell me the Mechanism was the one and only calculating machine they had. Complex technologies don’t spring out of nowhere as a one-off. How much mind-blowing stuff has been completely lost to history…?

November 14, 2018 — 8:35 pm
Comments: 9

Alexandra’s last voyage

Rye’s bonfire is tomorrow. We drove past this afternoon as they were building it. It’s traditional to include a boat on the pile (though they usually don’t — even a scruffy old boat is worth something).

I got curious about this one and searched its registration: RX87.

It is a very photographed boat, mostly in recent years picturesquely dilapidating on the shore. Her name is Alexandra. According to this Flickr account “She is the Alexandra was registered RX87. She was built in 1958 at Whitstable for a Rye fisherman then went to Hastings where she ended her days.”

Her working days, that must be. She seems to have ended her days on land on Rye Harbour Road, and she will truly be ending them tomorrow night in flames on the salt flats in front of Rye.

Here she is halfway between then and now, looking scruffy but jaunty in a boat race in 1988. There are only a few scraps of blue paint on her today, but she is red in the oldest photos.

Google offered a glimpse of her in a book called The Coast Road, a 3,000 mile journey round the edge of England, published in 2004.

Maggie points out of the window to a man in a red baseball cap walking the beach. ‘That’s Peter White. He was a fisherman. Until three months back. He was the last to give up.’

Old habits die hard. Peter White is pacing the shore, looking to sea one moment, down at his feet the next, and then across to the small beached, red fishing smack, RX 87, that he owned for most of his working life.

I probably should have read a bit more, but I didn’t. I wonder if that was his real name and if he’ll be there at the end tomorrow. There’s an 85% chance of rain but that won’t stop them.

Good weekend, all!

November 9, 2018 — 8:55 pm
Comments: 11

Horseshoes

Another one from a country show. Farmers hereabouts turn these up all the time, ploughing the fields (a neighbor of ours has an impressive personal collection).

The guy identified the approximate age by the style. Forgive me; I don’t remember. Most of them are Medieval.

The asymmetrical one upper left wasn’t corroded into that shape. It was for a horse with an asymmetrical hoof. So I was told.

Even these people’s garbage is interesting…

August 28, 2018 — 9:01 pm
Comments: 3

Connections

Five thousand years ago — like, very nearly when they think Stonehenge was built — and for five hundred years afterward, the monument was used as a burial site. They’ve known this for a long time. Excavations in the early Twentieth C uncovered lots of bone fragments that were, in an unusually wise move for the time, reburied for later generations to examine.

That’s us, with our fancy pants machines. The bodies were cremated, so there’s no DNA analysis or anything like that. But they can do that new thing where they analyze the strontium signature to tell where a person’s from. No, I don’t really understand how that works.

Well, in this case, because of the condition of the fragments, they can only tell where the person spent the last ten years of his (or her) life.

This is the interesting bit. Of the 25 individuals they’ve identified, 15 came from the area around Stonehenge, and 10 came from West Wales. Yeah, where the bluestones come from — those very early stones in the henge. The ones they’re always trying to figure out how the hell they moved them so far.

They think they’ve identified both men and women, and they say high-status individuals — though you have to wonder if that last bit is speculation, unless there’s something they can tell about diet or bone wear.

The story has appeared in several places right now, because the studies are new, but here it is from Science News.

I love this stuff. And don’t even start on me with the druids. Druids were later, probably.

August 7, 2018 — 9:44 pm
Comments: 9

It’s a plane!

Okay, not my picture. I stole it from this Sun article from Armed Forces Day. But that is totally what it looked like.

We were at a village fete, standing in the churchyard, when we heard the most extraordinary noise, and THIS went over. Low and slow.

It’s a Lancaster bomber, and it had an escort of Spitfires. It was spectacular.

Wikipedia tells me there are seventeen of these left and only two airworthy: “Of the 7,377 aircraft built, 3,736 were lost during the War (3,249 in action and 487 in ground accidents). Today 17 remain in complete form, two of which are airworthy, and eight of which are in Canada. Only four of the surviving 17 – KB839, KB882, R5868, and W4783 – flew combat sorties over continental Europe during the War.”

Where we are, the sky was black with these once. This one was flying commemorative events all weekend. We saw it again on Sunday, when we were driving to the cat sanctuary. I managed to whip out my phone and take three pictures of a completely empty sky.

I almost lead with one of those pictures, but I actually like you guys.

July 24, 2018 — 9:18 pm
Comments: 19

Two wrecks at low tide

A local history group searching along the coast for WWII pillboxes in Kent (spoiler: there are a shit ton of them) has discovered a previously unknown Tudor shipwreck. It was probably a merchant vessel. They’re probing it now.

The article mentions another wreck on a beach in Sussex. I think that’s one I’ve seen myself. I can’t tell you how underwhelming these things are in person: dark knobs in the general shape of a boat.

Still, if they decide to dig up the cargo — that’s when it gets cool.

Me, I ate something that disagreed with me today and I feel shit. I feel kind of shit. Not like ‘throwing up’ (or shitting) shit, but not good.

July 16, 2018 — 9:55 pm
Comments: 10

drought archaeology

We haven’t had rain in weeks and weeks now. They got the hay up in June — earliest ever — and my lawn is a sad, pale, yellow shadow of Springtime green.

But it does interesting things like this. Traces of humans leave impressions on the land for thousands of years and generations of farming never fully eradicate them.

This is a late stone age henge, in a part of Ireland that is weirdly full of henges. Seriously, they’d love to know why there were so many in this one narrow place. This one’s unusual for its double ring wall, but it’s on private land and there’s no intent to dig at the moment.

There is more archaeology turning up across the UK, thanks to a confluence of the drought and all the drone photography.

But not here. Not in my yard. Though we are miles from the sea now, the patch we live on was reclaimed from the water in late Medieval times. I live on weirdly new land!

July 12, 2018 — 10:01 pm
Comments: 8

Spoiler: it’s empty

This is cool: the maritime museum in Greenwich owned Sir Francis Drake’s treasure chest. Problem was, it was locked and they didn’t have a key.

Here’s a neat short film of the conservator making a key for it, starting with a blank and observing where the mechanism rubbed against the metal.

I’m sure they knew there was nothing in it before they started, but internets got to clickbait.

July 10, 2018 — 8:40 pm
Comments: 7

Lego of the Gods

Tweet from the British Museum says: “This 2,300-year-old #MysteryObject has a modern equivalent – what do you think it might have been used for?”

Eh. No idea. No associated article and no idea of scale, so I really could not say, BM.

…chasing a deadline tonight…

June 14, 2018 — 9:31 pm
Comments: 24

I didn’t know we had one of those…

Isaac Newton’s death mask. And by “we” I mean the Royal Society.

Several were made at the time of his death. You have to be careful about that, as sculptors regularly touched them up.

Like the famous l’Inconnue de la Seine, which has been (I suspect) heavily recarved. Nobody simpers in death.

I have been fascinated with death masks ever since I had a life mask made of myself in plaster of Paris when I was about twelve. By my mother’s entire special education class.

This went about as badly as you imagine, but it’s a story that needs telling with a lot of hand gestures and mime. And sound effects.

Anyway, I escaped with my life. Not sure what happened to the mask, though.

Today is the anniversary of Newton’s death, March 20, 1726 (or 1727 in the newfangled Gregorian calendar that was coming into use in his lifetime). If you look closely, you can just make out the dent in his head left by that apple.

That’s Uncle B’s joke.

March 20, 2018 — 9:50 pm
Comments: 12