Antikythera Mechanism

In 1900 sponge divers found an impressive mechanism near the island of Antikythera, a Greek island.  When it was discovered, its use was unknown, and there were many theories.  The majority of researchers thought it was some kind of dating or clock device.  The only thing that was apparent was its complexity.  It is so complex some believed it proved time travel’s existence.

The mechanism was found on an ancient Roman merchant ship, during what is considered the first underwater archeology expedition.  It was built in the late 2nd century B.C.E as a complex computer to track the cycles of the Solar System.  It is proves to be accurate today, and nothing with such intricacy was created until the 14th century C.E.

While we have known about its existence for over 100 years, the biggest advances in comprehension have been in the last 10 years.  The use of modern technology to analyze the mechanism has made great strides.  The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project is the current team of international researchers assessing the mechanism.  The project has been supported with grants from many different countries.   The main universities supporting the project are the University of Cardiff, the University of Thessalonica, and the University of Athens.  There are also technology companies heavily involved, mainly Hewlett Packard and X-Tek Systems.  The main technology being used is x-ray.  With this technology they have been able to view details of inscriptions and reach a resolution better than a tenth of a millimeter.  All the analysis has been preformed in Athens, as that is where the Antikythera Mechanism is housed.

Through detailed analysis, the researchers have made conclusions, some more well supported than others.  They believe the mechanism was created on the Island of Rhodes.  It was made of bronze, though the corrosion has gone so far it is impossible to be sure. The Greeks were known for being good at metalworking and for the complexity of the mechanism it is actually simple to manufacture it. The mechanism was found on an ancient Roman merchant ship, during what is considered the first underwater archeology expedition. The shipwreck likely happened around 85-60 B.C.E.  The mechanism was stored in wooden box, though after being removed it has deteriorated.  It is also believed that it was made by someone at the Hipparchos school.  Hipparchos was a Greek astronomer, mathematician, and geographer.  The mechanism wasn’t the only one. While no others have been found, there appear to be no mistakes on the copy we have.

There are 30 gears total.  It was able to calculate the positions of the sun, moon, and stars.  It was important for the culture that it could predict eclipses.


The mechanism is currently displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.  The exhibition is titled “The Wreck of Antiythera: The Ship, the Treasures, the Mechanism”.

Traveling to Athens is simple as you can fly straight in.  Once you arrive there are many things to visit, such as the acropolis, plaka, monastiraki, Thissio, Kifissia, Nea Smyrni, and Kolonaki.  Visiting the mechanism is a nice addition to an already planned trip to Greece.  It isn’t something your whole trip should be oriented around, but it is a sight to see


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6 Responses to Antikythera Mechanism

  1. stephanieflee says:

    It is very interesting how something that was built so long ago can accurately track the cycles of the solar system. I also find it fascinating how the scientists were able to use advanced x-ray technology to examine the details of the mechanism. I’m curious as to how this group of researchers were able to get large companies like Hewlett Packard involved in an archaeological project.

  2. mattdelaneywpc says:

    It is incredible how little we have discovered over the first 90 years of having this machine. How do the researchers know that it is still accurate? Were they able to use the mechanism?

  3. joekuhn93 says:

    There is nothing more mysterious than finding an ancient artifact that happened to have much scientific meaning way back before all of us were born. It is surprising to know that this mechanism once was said to work, despite the lack of the advanced technology like we have presently. Was there any information about how accurate this device was in finding the positions of the sun, moon, and the stars? Even though it is outdated technology, it is still surprising to see how ancient civilizations have made so many technological advances.


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