© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The story behind the real 'Dial of Destiny' featured in the new Indiana Jones film

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For the fifth and perhaps final time, Harrison Ford is back as a rough and tumble archaeologist.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY")

JOHN RHYS-DAVIES: (As Sallah) Give 'em hell, Indiana Jones.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHIP CRACKING)

CHANG: In this installment called "Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny," the object at the center of the action is - you guessed it - a dial.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY")

HARRISON FORD: (As Indiana Jones) In 213 BC, Archimedes spoke to the dial.

PHOEBE WALLER-BRIDGE: (As Helena) That could change the course of history.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

Like some past treasures Dr. Jones has chased on the big screen, this one is loosely based on a real artifact called the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical calculator.

TONY FREETH: What the movie got right was roughly the size of it. It got right that its outputs at the front are concentric rings and pointers.

CHANG: Tony Freeth of University College London is an expert on the real device, and he says the movie did bend the truth a little bit.

FREETH: It's described as Archimedes' Antikythera mechanism. Well, there is a link with Archimedes, but it's pretty tenuous and speculative.

FLORIDO: Then there is how you say it.

FREETH: Anti-kie-thera (ph) - that's how they say it in the film, and it's not pronounced that way. It's pronounced Anti-kith-era (ph).

CHANG: That's right, Anti-kith-era. You got that? And Indy's dial of destiny can find fissures in time. In other words, it makes time travel possible.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY")

WALLER-BRIDGE: (As Helena) Dad told me you found something...

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWING)

WALLER-BRIDGE: (As Helena) ...On a train during the war, a dial that could change the course of history.

FREETH: In the movie, you know, you put the thing together, you put the thing in the middle, and it will transport you somewhere. But it doesn't actually do that at all (laughter). It's a sort of magic device, really.

CHANG: No way, it doesn't have magic? Freeth says if Jones really wanted to travel back to Archimedes' day, there was no need for a magic dial.

FREETH: You need a DeLorean sports car with a flux capacitor. And you need Martin. You need Doc.

FLORIDO: The real device was discovered by divers in 1901 at an ancient shipwreck near the Greek island of Antikythera. It is thousands of years old and has bronze gears and elaborate inscriptions. And it was a puzzle to scholars.

FREETH: They thought it was a navigation instrument, which it isn't. Some thought it was a form of astrolabe, which is a device to follow the stars. And it's not. It's an astronomical calculating machine that predicts the future of the sun, moon, planets and eclipses. It predicts the future by calculating their cycles.

CHANG: Freeth and his colleagues have examined the device with X-ray imaging, and two years ago, they published a paper calling the machine a, quote, "creation of genius." The phrase time travel, however, does not appear in their work.

FREETH: Maybe we missed something in the X-rays. We should have found that, but (laughter) I don't think so.

FLORIDO: And as for Indy's iconic line...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE")

FORD: (As Indiana Jones) That belongs in a museum.

FLORIDO: The real Antikythera mechanism is in a museum, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "THE RAIDERS MARCH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tags
Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.