The Antikythera Mechanism: Who Designed the World’s Oldest Astronomical Computer?
Since its discovery in a shipwreck near Greece in 1900, an ancient metallic astronomical clock, called the ‘Antikythera Mechanism’ still baffles scientists. Research articles on the clock offer loose context for what the device is and what is does, but virtually none tackle the outstanding hard questions - who made it and where did its inherent astronomical and mechanical knowledge come from?
The Antikythera Mechanism (Fragment A – front); visible is the largest gear in the mechanism, approximately 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) in diameter. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Discovering the Antikythera Mechanism
In the spring of 1900, fishermen diving for sea sponges off the coast of Antikythera island in Greece, came across the shocking sight of scores of human limbs, faces and horses. The first diver to resurface was panicked by having found: “too many men and horses for him to count,” which he had presumed had met their fate in a shipwreck. However, it was not the corpses that had set fear into his heart, but he had discovered a rare collection of ancient Greek statues forgotten in time on the seabed of the Mediterranean.
Over the next year divers recovered several marble and bronze artifacts from the Antikythera shipwreck, which still today remains the largest ancient ship ever found. Several of the rare bronze statues were believed to be the work of Lysippos or Praxiteles, two of the most important Classical Greek sculptors of the fourth century BC.
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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history. www.ashleycowie.com.
By Ashley Cowie