The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient Greek analog computer and mechanical model of the solar system used to predict planetary positions and eclipses. Discovered in 1902 in a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera, which is located between Crete and Peloponnese. The mechanism was designed and constructed by Greek scientists at about 100 BC to 200 BC. It has been suggested that the Antikythera Mechanism was lost in the shipwreck while being taken to Rome. It was part of looted Greek treasures, to support a triumphal parade being staged by Julius Caesar.
The device consisted of an elaborate clockwork mechanism with 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac. It could predict eclipses and to model the irregular orbit of the moon. The knowledge of this technology was lost in antiquity. Technology of this complexity and artistry did not appear again until the development of astronomical mechanical clocks in Europe in the fourteenth century.
The shipwreck was dated to about 70-60 BC. It was found in 1900 by a group of Greek sponge divers who retrieved many significant artifacts. The divers discovered bronze and marble statues, pottery, unique glassware, jewelry, coins, and the mechanism. The mechanism was merely a lump of corroded bronze and wood at the time it was discovered. It went unexplored for a few years until it was noticed that a gear wheel was embedded in the corroded chunks of bronze debris. Not until 1971 did X-ray and gamma-ray images of the 82 fragments lead to the recognition that this was one of the first known analog computers.
- Name: Antikythera Mechanism
- Date: 150 and 100 BC
- Material: Bronze
- Discovered: 1902
- Country: Greece
- Dimensions: largest gear 140 mm (5.5 in) in diameter
- Museum: National Archaeological Museum, Athens
A Tour of the National Archaeological Museum, Athens
- Mask of Agamemnon
- Artemision Bronze
- Bronze Statuette of Athletic Spartan Girl
- Phrasikleia Kore
- Antikythera Mechanism
- Jockey of Artemision
- Antikythera Youth
- Head of a Cycladic Statue, Keros-Syros Culture
A Tour of the Museums in Athens
- Acropolis Museum
- National Archaeological Museum
- Benaki Museum
- Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art
- Byzantine and Christian Museum
- Hellenic Motor Museum
- National Historical Museum, Athens
- Museum of the Ancient Agora
- Syntagma Metro Station Archaeological Collection
- Numismatic Museum of Athens
- Athens War Museum
- Jewish Museum of Greece
- Athens University Museum
A Tour of the Historical Sites in Athens
- Acropolis of Athens
- Ancient Agora of Athens
- Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
- Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Athens
- Roman Agora
- Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
- Temple of Hephaestus
- Roman Baths, Athens
- Aristotle’s Lyceum
- Was this the world’s first computer?
- How many more Roman-era shipwrecks with Greek Treasure are out there?
- Under what circumstances do technology and knowledge get lost in history?
“Time is the wisest counselor of all.”
Photo Credit: JOM