What is the Dial of Destiny in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny? Explained

By Kieran Burt
Published: July 3, 2023
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What is the Dial of Destiny in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

What is the Dial of Destiny in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny? We explain how the ancient artifact works and if it exists in real life. Major spoilers for the film. 

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has finally hit theatres, delivering Harrison Ford’s final time as the iconic character.

Directed by James Mangold instead of Steven Spielberg, Indy is now an aging man on the verge of retirement. But he’s dragged back into an adventure once more, this time to find the mysterious Dial of Destiny.

But what does this dial do? We take a look at the newest artifact to be introduced into the franchise and explain its real-life inspirations.

What is the Dial of Destiny in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny?

The titular MacGuffin of the latest Indiana Jones film, the Dial of Destiny (or the Antikythera), is the artifact sought after by both the heroes and villains. It’s a device said to be made by Archimedes and uses mathematics to predict when fissures in time are going to happen. What this means in practice is that it opens up time portals, letting people use them to travel into the past.

Of course, this being an Indiana Jones film, the artifact being advertised works a bit like a monkey’s paw, so when the evil Nazi Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) plans to use it to go 1939 to alter the course of the Second World War, it instead drops them 2,149 years before in 213 BC during the siege of Syracuse, something that Voller wasn’t predicting.

It turns out that Archimedes had programmed the dial to take them to him all along, thus preventing its usefulness for going to any other era.

Does the Dial of Destiny let people time travel? 

Yes, the Dial of Destiny lets people time travel. While it only takes them back to 213 BC, it still is time travel, even if most people’s first thought wouldn’t be to go to the middle of a dangerous war.

Indeed, Indiana’s first choice would be to go back to just before the Vietnam War and warn his son Mutt not to enlist in the US Army because he will die in Vietnam.

Is the Dial of Destiny real?

While the dial as it’s presented in the film doesn’t exist, it’s actually based on a real historical artifact called the antikythera mechanism. Its real-life function, of course, isn’t time travel but rather one that Voller would have appreciated when he was working for NASA.

Instead of predicting temporal fissures, the mechanism would help predict astronomical positions and eclipses, sometimes decades in advance of when they happened.

The film’s Antikythera is developed by Archimedes, but in real life, no one knows who actually built it. It could have been Archimedes, it could have been someone belonging to his school, but it could have been the astronomer Hipparchus. Another difference between the Antikythera in the film and in real life is that in our world, the device is actually stored in a museum, kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny keeps up the franchise trend of Indy failing to deliver the artifacts he finds to a museum, as the dial ends up in his apartment at the end of the film.

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