10 Facts About The Antikythera Mechanism | An Ancient Computer

Mysterious astronomy and mechanisms offered new clues by the secret inscriptions. With gradual advancements, many new insights were developed about the Antikythera mechanism. Antikythera is an unusual artifact that has for decades pushed the classicists, historians, archaeologists and public.

The mechanism uses an analogue computer to predict the astronomical positions and eclipses and even the Olympics.

Hardly do people have a hint about the history and mechanism that lies beneath the sheets. Grabbing this chance to know more of the Antikythera mechanism facts. Sounds great, Right?

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1 Antikythera Is Used To Track 4 Years Cycle Of Ancient Olympic Games

Antikythera Mechanism

776 BC witnessed for the first time the Pan-Hellenic Games. Back then they used to take place every four years. Olympics are an inheritance of this ancient game. In the 394 BC, these traditional games were interrupted by the decree of the Roman emperor Theodosius II. The games resumed only after the efforts of the French Baron Pierre Coubertin in 1896 and came to be known as Olympics of the Modern Era.

The historical connection has its roots in astronomy and the history of human knowledge.

2 A Shipwreck Where Antikythera Device Discovered

Antikythera Mechanism

At the beginning of the last century, divers planned to search for sea sponges along the coast of the small Greek island of Antikythera. While searching for sponges, they found remains of the wreck of an ancient Roman ship.

The Aegean Sea is an island located between Greece and Crete. The ship is ethnically Roman and has a long span of positive history. The shipwreck is supposed to have happened between 85 BC – 60 BC. In the late 1970s, Jaques-Ives Cousteau recovered coins. Their minting coins dated back to the years of 60 – 86 BC. This record strengthened the consistency of the dating.

3 The Attention Catcher Archaeologist Valerios Stais First Noticed Its Gear Mechanism

The Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais caught attention. The instrument was 33 cm long, 17 cm wide and 9 cm thick piece. Archaeologists noticed in it a gear in the form of a steering wheel. A detailed examination revealed that it was made of bronze and seated on a wooden base.

The most elaborate search revealed that it was only one of the three larger parts that together with many small fragments formed an instrument. At first glance it suggested a connection with astronomical observations.

4 Antikythera User Manual Could Be Partially Deciphered

A text of about three thousand characters was recovered of its manual which was partially deciphered.

It actually showed that was an operational manual describing how to calibrate and adjust to make observations of the Sun, the Moon, the movement of the planets (Venus and Mercury). This is how researchers faced the oldest and most complex scientific instrument ever known.

5 Gears Of The Greeks

Antikythera Mechanism

In 1974, the British researcher Derek Solla Price published the article “Gears of the Greeks: The Antikythera mechanism”. Along with it, he also submitted an instrument model.

6 Mechanism Of Ancient Greek Computer

Antikythera Mechanism

The instrument is composed of three dials, one on the front face and two on the opposite face. The front display has two concentric scales. The outer marked the Egyptian calendar of 365 days while the inner marks the constellations of the Zodiac and is divided into degrees.

The calendar display can be adjusted to compensate for the excess day room each year.  Three pointers have been identified to indicate the date and the others for the positions of the Sun and Moon, including a second mechanism to indicate phases of the Moon.

The upper dial of the instrument’s bottom is in spiral form with 47 divisions around. The rounds represent the 235 months of the 19 years of the “Metallic Cycle”. There is also a subsidiary dial to fix in the 76 years of the “Calypic Cycle”. These cycles together are used to set calendars.

The lower dial too is in the spiral form, and has 223 divisions that make up the “Saros Cycle”. This cycle was discovered by the Chaldeans and indicates the interval of 18 years, 11 days and 8 hours. It is the same time interval between occurrences of a particular eclipse.

7 Recent Discoveries About Origin

Antikythera Mechanism

The images were treated by x-rays and gamma rays. It revealed the interior of the instrument in detail. The instrument had at least 30 gears, and 225 teeth, all carved by hand.

The latest discoveries revealed its origin, fine features of the eclipse prediction mechanism, and the calendar display for the Olympic Games.

The revelation of names of months used in the Corinthian colonies indicated that their origin may be beyond the island of Rhodes. The island was an important center of scientific and technological development. These further ahead points in the direction of Siracusa, in Sicily. This state city was a Corinthian ally, where Archimedes lived and died. Archimedes died long before (212 BC), and it is believed that this instrument may be a descendant of a similar invention. The invention of the instrument is attributed to him and reported by the Roman philosopher Cicero in 54 BC.

8 High-resolution Diagnoses

The high-resolution x-ray was capable of reading signals up to nearly two millimeters in length. The X-ray report highlighted the five spiral scales with their respective eclipse prediction marks. A small secondary display indicated the cycle of four years for the Olympic Games. These findings are published in the journal Nature.

9 Antikythera Mechanism Research Project

Antikythera Mechanism Research Project is a consortium between the University of Cardiff in England, the National University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Archaeological Museum National of Athens, X-Tech System of England and Hewlett-Packard of the United States.

The pieces of the instrument were fragile and could not be removed from the museum. HP and X-Tech managed to move their equipment to Athens. HP developed a dome with a three-dimensional imaging surface and X-Tech installed a computerized imaging camera. The camera was especially designed for mechanism studies.

On October 21, 2005, the discovery of new parts was announced. Today there are eighty-two catalogued fragments.

10 Antikythera May Be A Most Advanced Version Of Its Time

It is apparent that the Antikythera Mechanism was about a thousand years ahead of any similar instrument discovered. The historical record indicates that in the early eleventh century, the Arab astronomer Al Biruni built complex astronomical instruments.

In all, there remains a lot more to discover.