Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 6, pp 693-774

First online:

On the epoch of the Antikythera mechanism and its eclipse predictor

  • Christián C. CarmanAffiliated withInstituto de Estudios sobre la Ciencia y la Tecnología, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes
  • , James EvansAffiliated withProgram in Science, Technology and Society, University of Puget Sound Email author 

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The eclipse predictor (or Saros dial) of the Antikythera mechanism provides a wealth of astronomical information and offers practically the only possibility for a close astronomical dating of the mechanism. We apply a series of constraints, in a sort of sieve of Eratosthenes, to sequentially eliminate possibilities for the epoch date. We find that the solar eclipse of month 13 of the Saros dial almost certainly belongs to solar Saros series 44. And the eclipse predictor would work best if the full Moon of month 1 of the Saros dial corresponds to May 12, 205 BCE, with the exeligmos dial set at 0. We also examine some possibilities for the theory that underlies the eclipse times on the Saros dial and find that a Babylonian-style arithmetical scheme employing an equation of center and daily velocities would match the inscribed times of day quite well. Indeed, an arithmetic scheme for the eclipse times matches the evidence somewhat better than does a trigonometric model.