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Search tags: history-prehistoric-ancient
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review 2018-07-20 08:13
The Portable Cosmos by Alexander Jones
A Portable Cosmos: Revealing the Antikythera Mechanism, Scientific Wonder of the Ancient World - Alexander Jones

TITLE:  The Portable Cosmos:  Revealing the Antikythera Mechanism, Scientific Wonder of the Ancient World

 

AUTHOR:  Alexander Jones

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780199739349

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Book Description:

 

"From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Terracotta Army, ancient artifacts have long fascinated the modern world. However, the importance of some discoveries is not always immediately understood. This was the case in 1901 when sponge divers retrieved a lump of corroded bronze from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea near the Greek island of Antikythera. Little did the divers know they had found the oldest known analog computer in the world, an astonishing device that once simulated the motions of the stars and planets as they were understood by ancient Greek astronomers. Its remains now consist of 82 fragments, many of them containing gears and plates engraved with Greek words, that scientists and scholars have pieced back together through painstaking inspection and deduction, aided by radiographic tools and surface imaging. More than a century after its discovery, many of the secrets locked in this mysterious device can now be revealed.

In addition to chronicling the unlikely discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism, author Alexander Jones takes readers through a discussion of how the device worked, how and for what purpose it was created, and why it was on a ship that wrecked off the Greek coast around 60 BC. What the Mechanism has uncovered about Greco-Roman astronomy and scientific technology, and their place in Greek society, is truly amazing. The mechanical know-how that it embodied was more advanced than anything the Greeks were previously thought capable of, but the most recent research has revealed that its displays were designed so that an educated layman could understand the behavior of astronomical phenomena, and how intertwined they were with one's natural and social environment. It was at once a masterpiece of machinery as well as one of the first portable teaching devices. Written by a world-renowned expert on the Mechanism, A Portable Cosmos will fascinate all readers interested in ancient history, archaeology, and the history of science.
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The conglomerate of corroded and broken bronze pieces, eventually known as the  Antikythera Mechanism, were salvaged from a shipwreck in the early 1900s.  Initially, the fragments were studied without any certainty of what they were. By the end of that century it was confirmed that the metal device with its gears and advanced clockwork mecahnism was some kind of analog computer.  It was eventually determined that the mechanism predicted phases of the moon, planetary positions and even eclipses with great precision.

A Portable Cosmos provides a description of the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism, an extensive  desciption of the device itself and how it worked, as well as the ancient astronomy behind it.   Jones explores the mystery of the Antikythera mechanism in a no nonsense fashion and includes relevant diagrams and photographs where necessary.  The author does a thorough job of presenting numerous related topics such as the history of astronomy and astrology, calendrics and the mechanics of eclipses, as well as any ancient records of such a mechanism.  Cicero wrote about a planetarium that Archimedes used as a teaching tool, which may have been similar to the Antikythera mechanism.  The book is devided into thematic chapters, so if the technical aspects are too detailed, the reader can skip these chapters without missing out too much.  This book is scholarly and rather technical, but is none the less absorbing and very interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-06-25 09:39
Medusa by Stephen R. Wilk
Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon - Stephen R Wilk

TITLE:  Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon 

 

AUTHOR:  Stephen R. Wilk

 

DATE PUBLISHED: 2000

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-19-534131-7

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From the blurb:

"Medusa, the Gorgon, who turns those who gaze upon her to stone, is one of the most popular and enduring figures of Greek mythology. Long after many other figures from Greek myth have been forgotten, she continues to live in popular culture. In this fascinating study of the legend of Medusa, Stephen R. Wilk begins by refamiliarizing readers with the story through ancient authors and classical artwork, then looks at the interpretations that have been given of the meaning of the myth through the years. A new and original interpretation of the myth is offered, based upon astronomical phenomena. The use of the gorgoneion, the Face of the Gorgon, on shields and on roofing tiles is examined in light of parallels from around the world, and a unique interpretation of the reality behind the gorgoneion is suggested. Finally, the history of the Gorgon since tlassical times is explored, culminating in the modern use of Medusa as a symbol of Female Rage and Female Creativity."

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This lavishly illustrated book starts off exploring the variations in the Medusa and Perseus myth, then goes on to explore Gorgons in art, gorgons around the world, possible explanations for the common appearance of the Gorgon face, how astronomy fits in with the myth, gorgons and gargoyles (this was a really good chapter!), the author's hypothesis on what the Gorgon really represented, and what the gorgon means to people today.

 

The book is clearly written and explores all things Medusa.  This book is so interesting, with the author covering various aspects from mythology, astronomy, war, art, gutter ornementation, religion, possible origins, where the snakey-hair comes from, movies (author needs an update here), novels etc.  I learned a whole boat load of new things from this book.  I also really appreciate the lack of irrelevant side tangents and biographical ramblings so often found in non-fiction books. I would quite happily read any other dissected myths should the author write something like that.

 

 

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review 2017-11-13 06:36
Bog Bodies Uncovered by Miranda Aldhouse-Green
Bog Bodies Uncovered: Solving Europe's Ancient Mystery - Miranda Aldhouse-Green

TITLE:  Bog Bodies Uncovered:  Solving Europe's Ancient Mystery

 

AUTHOR:  Miranda Aldhouse-Green 

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2015

 

FORMAT: e-book

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-500-05182-5

 

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Miranda Aldhouse-Green takes a look at the mystery of the bog bodies:  how and where they were discovered; the world the bog people lived in; crime scene investigation of the bodies, how bog environments preserve bodies; whether the bog bodies were accident execution or murder victims; the ways they were killed; who might have done the deeds; and why this was done. 

 

The book is interesting and informative, with a great deal of research/references and many photographs.  However, there is also a great deal of speculation, repetition and no definitive answers.  In short, we don't know much about the bog bodies other than the manner of their deaths, but there is a great deal of speculation, and most certainly no solving of any mystery.  Did I mention all the repetition?  

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review 2017-03-07 06:34
History of Ancient Britain by Neil Oliver
A History of Ancient Britain - Neil Oliver

A well-written, easy-going, entertaining book that covers the history of Ancient Britain from the earliest humans, the Ice Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and to the Roman occupation in broad strokes. There is not a great deal of technical language. The author discusses significant archaeological finds with passing mentions of such things as genetics and linguistics. I would have liked to read more about the languages, technological developments (other than the arrival of bronze and iron), changes in farming techniques, changes in human physiology over time etc. But, I suppose this type of information is rather difficult to glean from a small collection of bones and artifacts. The book includes two sections of colour photo inserts. It would have been helpful if the author had also included a map indicating the sites he discusses. None the less, I found the book to be interesting and informative.

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review 2017-01-01 14:17
Chronicles from Pre-Celtic Europe by Alewyn J Raubenheimer
Chronicles from pre-Celtic Europe: (Survivors of the Great Tsunami) - Alewyn J Raubenheimer

Chronicles from Pre-Celtic Europe takes a look at the contents of the Oera Lind Book and matches this up with modern archaeological, paleoclimatological, linguistical and genetic findings.  The book is well written and extremely interesting.  It provides food for thought and hopefully some additional research.

 

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