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The Real Mystery Behind Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’s Archimedes MacGuffin

CT Scans performed by scholars at Cardiff University in 2006 further revealed hidden inscriptions within, which suggested circular balls were implemented on its various dials: a silver one to track the moon; a fiery red one for the movements of Mars; and a golden one to follow the sun. Furthermore, two dial systems on its back were used to accurately predict the passage of the cycle of lunar and solar eclipses, with the former built on a Metonic Spiral, meaning it followed the moon’s eclipse cycles across 19-year stretches.

It was the Cardiff scans in 2006 that really began a global fascination with a machine made of gears and metals more advanced than anything the world would see again for another 1500-plus years. Yet the realization that it was the first computer raised another question… who made it?

Did Archimedes Build It?

In Dial of Destiny, it is a foregone conclusion that the ancient polymath Archimedes, who lived in the original city of Syracuse (a Greek colony built in modern day Sicily), constructed the dial for the express purpose of inviting a time traveler to come back in time and break the the Roman siege of his hometown in 212 BC. While that is probably not the case, Archimedes is a plausible suspect for the inventor of the Antikythera device… among others.

In fact, it is the specific Greek festivals the device tracks which might cast doubt on Dial of Destiny’s assertion that Archimedes designed the machine. Most famously, the mechanism was programmed to predict the ancient Olympic games held every four years between 776 BC and sometime in the second century BC. However, these games were celebrated throughout the entire Greek world, which extended across the Mediterranean in this era. Thus the more illuminating celebrations the Antikythera was programmed to announce were the festival of Naa, a celebration held in northwestern Greece, and the festival of Halieia, an event held on the southern island of Rhodes, home of the famed Colossus statue.

Rhodes was likewise the adopted home of the revered ancient philosopher Posidonius, one of the great minds of the first century BC—so much so Roman statesmen and leaders like the mighty Cicero were counted among his admirers. Cicero’s writings are a key reason Posidonius’ name survives today, and some scholars speculate Posidonius (or men in his school) constructed the so-called dial, and it was being shipped from Rhodes to northern Greece as a gift when the ship sank.

However, it is also thanks to Cicero’s prodigious penmanship that many other scholars believe Indiana Jones’ Archimedes built the device. (Fun fact: Cicero’s similarly voluminous political musings against Marc Antony caused the latter to have Cicero assassinated and display his severed hands in the Roman forum.) It is Cicero who tells us that Archimedes developed several bronze devices in the the third century BC that were brought to Rome.

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