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Antikythera Mechanism

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The Antikythera Mechanism
Antikythera Mechanism

Antikythera Mechanism is an ancient mechanical device that most scientists believe was designed to calculate the positions of celestial bodies. It was originally thought to be some kind of ancient computer. However, the discovery of numerous Greek inscriptions and zodiac signs indicates that it was an astrological device.

The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in 1901 at a depth of 45 meters, in the wreck of an ancient ship, near the Greek island of Antikythera (hence its name), between the islands of Kythira and Crete. In the following years, further discoveries were carried out in the area of ​​the find, bringing to light further fragments of the device.

The mechanism was exceptionally advanced for the era in which it was created and extremely small in size. The device itself could measure in the wooden frame (on which it was mounted) about 34 cm high, 18 cm wide and 9 cm long. Scientists discovered the find as one corroded lump, which they then separated into three parts after the conservation process. According to the researchers, the mechanism consisted of as many as 37 bronze gears, which had a diameter of 1 to 13 cm, and which simulated the rhythmic movement of the Moon and the Sun along the orbits and indicated the occurrence of solar eclipses. Researchers speculate that in addition to determining the movements of the Moon and the Sun, the mechanism could also record the movements of the then-known planets (Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). The wheels were driven by a crank (or several cranks) on the side and moved several hands. Importantly, research in ancient times on the movement of the Sun and the Moon was conducted by Hipparchus, a Greek astronomer from the 2nd century BC. – hence the assumption that the device could have been made by him. However, there are also suggestions that the author could even be Archimedes himself or his disciples. However, this information is not confirmed, this assumption is made by the screenwriters of the film.

The question that researchers ask themselves is to what period we can date the device. Based on numerous finds (especially coins) in the wreck, scientists determined that the ship sank in the range of 70-60 BCE. The mechanism, in turn, was made between 205 and 80 of the 1st century BCE.

Interestingly, the mechanism was so complicated that it is assumed that until the 14th century, when the first astronomical watches were created, no similar object of similar complexity was created.

In 2006, a visual reconstruction of what the complete Antikythera Mechanism might have looked like was presented. We can see it, together with the artifact itself, in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Digital reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism.
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Importantly, in the place where the find was discovered and in its vicinity, searches are still being carried out, in the hope that further fragments of the mechanism will be fished out of the sea. As we hear among researchers, the wreck of a Roman ship from the vicinity of Antikythera is a real treasury of ancient artifacts. We do not know where exactly the Roman ship was sailing, but it is suspected that it may have sailed from Athens to Rome. It could also be a ship of a Roman aristocrat with looted/gathered Greek treasures or a state boat with loot.


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