It seems that more and more we hear about ancient technology being discovered on our planet. One such discovery is the Antikythera mechanism. What is this mysterious object? According to the experts it’s an ancient computer dating back to the 1st century BC. It’s not like the computers you and I know…The Antikythera Mechanism was designed to track and calculate astronomical positions with extreme precision. How could something so complex, exist so long ago? Who made it? Did they have help from some sort of advanced being? No one knows for certain.
Today the device is displayed at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, accompanied by a reconstruction made and donated to the museum by Derek de Solla Price.
Investigating the Antikythera Mechanism
Antikythera Mechanism Origins
This machine has the oldest known complex gear mechanism and is sometimes called the first known analog computer, although the quality of its manufacture suggests that it may have had a number of undiscovered predecessors during the Hellenistic Period. It appears to be constructed upon theories of astronomy and mathematics developed by Greek astronomers and is estimated to have been made around 100 BC. In 1974, British science historian and Yale University Professor Derek de Solla Price concluded from gear settings and inscriptions on the mechanism’s faces that the mechanism was made about 87 BC and was lost only a few years later.
All of the mechanism’s instructions are written in Koine Greek, and the consensus among scholars is that the mechanism was made in the Greek-speaking world. One hypothesis is that the device was constructed at an academy founded by the Stoic philosopher Posidonius on the Greek island of Rhodes, which at the time was known as a center of astronomy and mechanical engineering; this hypothesis further suggests that the mechanism may have been designed by the astronomer Hipparchus, since it contains a lunar mechanism which uses Hipparchus’s theory for the motion of the Moon. However, recent findings of The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project suggest that the concept for the mechanism originated in the colonies of Corinth, which might imply a connection with Archimedes
It was discovered in a shipwreck off Point Glyphadia on the Greek island of Antikythera. The wreck had been found in October 1900 and divers had retrieved numerous artifacts, most of them works of art, which had been transferred to the National Museum of Archaeology for storage. On 17 May 1902, archaeologist Valerios Stais was examining the finds and noticed that one of the pieces of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Stais initially believed it was an astronomical clock, but most scholars considered the device an anachronism, too complex to have been constructed during the same period as the other pieces that had been discovered. Investigations into the object were soon dropped until Derek J. de Solla Price became interested in it in 1951.
It is not known how it came to be on the cargo ship, but it has been suggested that it was being taken to Rome, together with other treasure looted from the island, to support a triumphal parade being staged by Julius Caesar.
Information sourced here.
Learn more about the Antikythera Mechanism
For more information on the Antikythera Mechanism, I recommend the following sources:
- The Antikythera Mechanism Wikipedia Page
- The various videos on YouTube
- The Antikythera Mechanism special on Coast to Coast AM