Friday, 1 March 2013

The Boy's 1st anniversary

 Youth of Antikythera
It is one year today since The Boy with Two Heads was published. 

Connie Jensen of Trifolium Books and I liked the idea of launching The Boy on the world on February 29th. And as there isn't a February 29th this year, we're celebrating today, March 1st.

Which highlights an age old problem of measuring time and using calendars - and a tenuous connection between two ancient artefacts and The Boy. 

As I have mentioned in this blog before, in 1900 a wreck was found by sponge divers on the sea bed off the island of Antikythera to the south of the Peloponnese on the main route from Ancient Ionia (present day Turkey) to Rome. Among the many artefacts discovered were the pieces of the statue that is now the Youth of Antikythera (we used his face on the cover of The Boy with Two Heads) and a mysterious 'mechanism' in a wooden box. 
Antikythera Mechanism from Wikipedia

It is thought that the purpose of this device was to predict lunar and solar eclipses based on Babylonian arithmetic-progression cycles. The inscriptions on the device also support suggestions of mechanical display of planetary positions.*
There is a long and detailed article about the Antikythera Mechanism on Wikipedia (from which this quote comes). And on Tuesday 12th February 2013 on BBC4 there was a fascinating documentary about it called The Two-thousand-year-old Computer. This is sadly not available on BBC iPlayer, but there's an older, more emotive, 50 minute film about it on You Tube.

The ship was probably wrecked in about 70 BC and the mechanism is thought to have been made around 100 BC. From its complexity, it seems unlikely that it was a prototype and may have been the result of hundreds of years of engineering skill.

So it seems (accidentally) fitting to me that my Boy with Two Heads has his 'anniversary' on February 29th, a day added to our calendar to correct it in relation to the movement of the astronomical bodies that the Mechanism was made to predict. And both the statue we used to represent him and the Mechanism were found in the same shipwreck.

Perhaps that's labouring it a bit, but I love to find patterns in this messy and magnificent chaos we call life ...

... which is one of the themes in The Boy with Two Heads.

*M. G. Edmunds, et al. “Decoding The Ancient Greek Astronomical Calculator Known As The Antikythera Mechanism.” Nature 444.7119: 587-591. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Nov 2012.

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