What is the Antikythera Mechanism

Learn About the Incredible Antikythera Mechanism

As far as science and technology go, the Antikythera Mechanism is one of the biggest and most intriguing stories ever told. But what exactly is the Antikythera Mechanism and what makes it such a significant discovery?

What is the Antikythera Mechanism?

The Antikythera Mechanism is a device used to monitor and forecast solar cycles. The mechanism, which is often described as the world’s “first analogical computer,” is believed to have been used by early astronomers to mark the calendar as well as predict solar and lunar eclipse by tracking the movements of the sun, moon, and planets.

The Antikythera Mechanism was also used to plan a four-year athletics tournament cycle like the Olympic Games. Technically, you would be right to call it a calculator, as it was used to add, multiply, divide, and subtract. In addition, the relic could align different cycles and show the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac.

The device, a complex system, comprises over 30 sophisticated bronze gears held in a wooden and bronze case that’s about the same size as a shoebox. These gears were used to control dials tracking the moon, sun, planets, eclipses, as well as the schedule for the Olympics.

When Was the Antikythera Mechanism Discovered?

In 1900, a boatload of Greek sponge divers was blown off course by a storm, forcing them to take shelter by the small Mediterranean island of Antikythera, per LiveScience. The following day, they went diving off the tiny island and found the wreck of an ancient trading ship believed to be 2,000-years-old.

The divers later retrieved three flat pieces of corroded bronze from the submerged ship, which many believe sank between 70 BC and 60 BC on its way to Rome from Asia. Researchers say the device was first made sometime between the second and early first century.

Two years after the discovery, Greek politician, Spirydon Stais, who spearheaded the ship’s underwater excavation, visited the museum where the treasures from the wrecked cargo ship were kept. While sifting through the items, Stais was attracted by some fascinating pieces of bronze, which would later be known as the Antikythera Mechanism.

The Antikythera Mechanism’s True Purpose Finally Discovered

In the decades past, scientists have made several attempts to find the actual purpose of the Antikythera Mechanism using X-rays and CT scans to look inside the device. Despite several efforts, it wasn’t until 1951 that Derek J. de Solla Price found the real purpose of the “computer.”

Assisted by Greek nuclear physicist Charalampos Karakalos, Price took a complete X-ray and gamma-ray images of the device’s 82 fragments. His research showed that the mechanism’s primary gear represented the calendar year, while the smaller, unconnected gears were designed to serve as the celestial bodies, cites an Independent article.

 

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