Did Jesus use machines?
I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but I usually picture Jesus sitting on the floor in a stone house, walking down a dusty street, traveling in a simple sail boat, or perhaps standing in some other idyllic setting. Never had I imagined that it would have been possible for Jesus or his followers to use sophisticated machines. Until this week, when I saw an old, 2006 article in The Guardian.
A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works.
The machine was lost among cargo in 65BC when the ship carrying it sank in 42m of water off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. By chance, in 1900, a sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck and recovered statues and other artifacts from the site.
The machine first came to light when an archaeologist working on the recovered objects noticed that a lump of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Closer inspection of material brought up from the stricken ship subsequently revealed 80 pieces of gear wheels, dials, clock-like hands and a wooden and bronze casing bearing ancient Greek inscriptions.
This seems like some kind of steampunk invention, but it’s apparently real. I wonder what other mechanical wonders might have been available to Jesus and his disciples? What other assumptions about the first century are wholly wrong?
Sometimes we forget that things come and go in the ebb and flow of history. Take, for example, the technology in this machine.
Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks.
Some researchers believe the machine, known as the Antikythera Mechanism, may have been among other treasure looted from Rhodes that was en route to Rome for a celebration staged by Julius Caesar.
One of the remaining mysteries is why the Greek technology invented for the machine seemed to disappear. No other civilisation is believed to have created anything as complex for another 1,000 years. One explanation could be that bronze was often recycled in the period the device was made, so many artefacts from that time have long ago been melted down and erased from the archaelogical record.
Just when we think we knew everything about Jesus (and by “we” I mean certain blogospheric colleagues), there’s a new thing. Perhaps this is a lesson for us.