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In 1902 sponge divers discovered 81 fragments of an ancient, unknown tool at the bottom of the sea near the Greek island of Antikythera. Dated around the first century B.C., this early “computer” was the most complex technology of its time – and for another thousand years. Originally thought to be an astrolabe, the mechanism tracked and predicted the cycles of the solar system and the movement of heavenly bodies.

Beginning in fall 2005, a team of British and Greek scientists and researchers used innovative digital imaging and 3-D X-ray technology to take high-res pictures of the mechanism, inside and out, including detailed inscriptions that offer insight into the tool’s functions. Now a London museum curator, Michael Wright, has built a working replica – the first to incorporate all the details of the original, including the Greek and Egyptian calendars, markers indicating locations of the moon and five planets known to the ancient Greeks, and predictions of solar and lunar eclipses. The three dials even include a movable dial to account for leap years.

The Antikythera mechanism was found among the remains of a Roman merchant ship. As it turns out, just like with art, architecture, and the gods, the Romans knew a good Greek tool when they saw one.

Video of Wright’s working replica [The Guardian UK]
Antikythera Mechanism Research Project


5 Responses to 2,000-Year-Old Computer Brought to Life

  1. Jon says:

    I saw the video of the replica working on Youtube. It is really awesome to see all the interior gears working, how intricate they are. Definitely gonna be on my Christmas list this year. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be getting it though.

  2. Old Coot says:

    Could be a StarGate; I’d be very careful.

  3. Topgun says:

    I seem to remember a pic of this item in one of my dad’s old “Chariot of the Gods” paperbacks. Awesome that they were able to reconstruct a working model.

    In an related story, divers off the coast of India have just recovered a 2,000 year old reciprocating saw, with the inscription “Craftsman” identified by computer imaging. More on the attempt to return this tool in another post.

  4. Brau says:

    “Could be a StarGate; I’d be very careful.”

    Or maybe it’s just an old movie prop that got dumped in the ocean. Wouldn’t that be a lark?!

  5. Audra says:

    It IS a stargate!

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