- CRITTER TALK
Some time in the last one hundred years of the time we call ‘Before Christ’ – or, in our more multicultural times, ‘Before Common Era’ – a Roman ship loaded with looted Grecian treasure foundered in a storm and sank off the island of Antikythera.
There it rested, undisturbed. Until, almost two thousand years later, another ship, this one loaded more prosaically with sponge divers, almost foundered in a similar storm at the same location. Being by the nature of their trade opportunist – and one segment of sea being pretty much like another in that region – they settled down to dive and found the ancient cache and, in it, a mystery which endures to this day: the Mechanism of Antikythera.
Even by the standards of the Swiss Grand Complications, it is a complex device – gears within gears, driven by an unknown method and appearing to mark the passage of time by the positions of celestial bodies – in fact, an orrery but one created 1800 years out of time.
This mystery – which still challenges some of our brightest and best minds – gives lie to the idea that our development is linear, and shows the tidal nature of our whimsy and brilliance as a species as well as hinting at the tragedy of what we must have lost down the centuries.
In a time in which science is being legislated out of the school rooms of the most powerful country in the world, I think it’s comforting to know that, although clouds cover the sun from time to time, it does continue to shine.
Where the tide of human endeavor ebbs, it shall rise again, higher and stronger than before.