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Ancient Computer: 2,200-Year-Old Antikythera Mechanism Is Still Revealing Its Secrets

Ancient Computer: 2,200-Year-Old Antikythera Mechanism Is Still Revealing Its Secrets

Archaeological evidences, new findings and reminiscent of the past, always instigate to one imperative aspect and that is- the ancestors were brilliant whether it was fabrication of some awesome buildings, finding new ways to live well or making awe-inspiring gadgets! Indeed, it is the latter this write up is all about.

The year 1900 witnessed the Greek sponge divers to discover a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. They came back with a variety of artifacts, which included-money, pottery, statues and other works of art and craft. Amidst the plethora of artifacts they also brought a lump of bronze and wood. It was this lump which was soon to be one of the most pertinent of discoveries.

Ancient Computer: 2,200-Year-Old Antikythera Mechanism Is Still Revealing Its SecretsThis ancient Greek "computer" called the Antikythera mechanism continues to puzzle scientists as to what it was used for.

Why was this lump so significant?

  • An archaeologist, Valerios Stais looked at it almost 2 years after. And he found that this lump had a gear in it. But, this did not cease here.
  • After a half century, the science historian Derek J.de Solla Price, thoughts that the lump does deserve more examination and analysis.
  • Again, after 25 years of this thought, he along with the nuclear physicists Charalambos Karakalos published their discovery.
  • The discovery was made utilizing X-ray and gamma ray images of the interior of the lump.
  • The result was astounding- it was a kind of primitive computer!
Ancient Computer: 2,200-Year-Old Antikythera Mechanism Is Still Revealing Its SecretsA fragment of the Antikythera Mechanism, displayed in Athens. (Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)

What was the Antikythera mechanism capable of?

It could predict the positions of the planets. And the planets were definitely those, which were familiar to the Greeks.  In fact, it even had a black and white stone, which turned to show the moon phases.

In order to determine how the computer really worked, has led many historians and archaeologists to develop a variety of different models. So, there have been a number of models made, which have been assembled, operated and again disassembled.

mechanismReplicas of what the mechanism may have once looked like. (Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)

The particular model which was discovered at Antikythera, belongs to somewhere in between 205 and 100 BC. However, a lot of models have been built, to understand its functions back then. In fact, it will be interesting for the readers to understand, that in the year 2012, Tony Freeth and Alexander Jones, published their own model and mentioned- “machine designed to predict celestial phenomena according to the sophisticated astronomical theories current in its day, the sole witness to a lost history of brilliant engineering, a conception of pure genius, one of the great wonders of the ancient world,” — but one which “didn’t really work very well.”

  • Yet again, some recent research from Berman has indicated that the device was fabricated by more than one person on the island of Rhodes. And, it is again a probability that it isn’t only one of its kinds. This gives emphasis to the aspect that the ancient Greeks had more understanding of the astronomical and mechanical aspects that what has been predicted and imagined about them.

Indeed, immense remains to be undiscovered and learn from!  And, definitely the research and archaeological work will continue to amaze the historian, archaeologists and the enthusiasts alike!

Ancient Computer: 2,200-Year-Old Antikythera Mechanism Is Still Revealing Its Secrets
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