Posts Tagged ‘Archaeology’

77,000 year old bed found

December 30, 2011

After a hard day hunting and gathering, humans 77,000 years ago could count on a good night’s mosquito-free sleep on a comfy bed of grass and leaves. Archaeologists have discovered the oldest evidence of humans using plant bedding, 50,000 years before it appears anywhere else.

Many animals make beds for themselves but what’s interesting in the new find is the way the owners managed their bedding. Intriguingly, all the layers of bedding that are 73,000 years old or younger show signs of burning, which may have been the result of routine cleaning. Burning the plants would have killed pests and diseases. That the cave’s occupants needed to do this, may suggest they spent extended periods of time in the shelter, so had to keep it clean. Learn more here or here.

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What makes a 300-year-old pocket watch tick?

November 10, 2010

State-of-the-art X-ray scans have revealed the internal mechanisms of a corroded, barnacle-covered pocket watch recovered from a seventeenth-century wreck. The watch looks little more than a lump of rock from the outside, but the scans show that the mechanism inside is beautifully preserved, from delicate cogwheels and Egyptian-style pillars to the maker’s inscription.

At this link you can view a video “flythrough” of the serial CT images, or read more here.

The Antikythera mechanism

January 13, 2010

More than a hundred years ago an extraordinary mechanism was found by sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of Antikythera. It astonished the whole international community of experts on the ancient world.

For decades, scientific investigation failed to yield much light and relied more on imagination than the facts. However research over the last half century has begun to reveal its secrets. It dates from around the end of the 2nd century B.C. and is the most sophisticated mechanism known from the ancient world. Nothing as complex is known for the next thousand years! The Antikythera Mechanism (wikipedia) is now understood to be dedicated to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical “computer” which tracks the cycles of the Solar System.

Using nothing but an ingenious system of gears, the mechanism could be used to predict the month, day and hour of an eclipse, and even accounted for leap years. It could also predict the positions of the sun and moon against the zodiac, and has a gear train that turns a black and white stone to show the moon’s phase on a given date. It is possible that it could also show the astronomical positions of the planets known to the ancients: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The Antikythera mechanism wasn’t just a scientific tool – it also had a social purpose. The Greeks held major athletic competitions (such as the Olympics) every two or four years. A small dial within the Metonic dial showed the dates of these important events. Read more here, here or here and go here or here to see videos about the machine.