Yesterday, Hellenic Television proudly reported that “the Antikythera Mechanism Stuns Scientists”. This calls for a clarification. In 1900, a sponge diver discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship off the Greek island of Antikythera.

The mysterious mechanism was discovered when an archaeologist noticed a gear wheel in the heavily encrusted and corroded mechanism. First believed to be a piece of rock the device is surprisingly thin and measures about 33x17x9cm (13×6.7×3.5 in), is made of bronze and was originally mounted in a wooden frame. It was inscribed with a text of more than 2,000 characters, many of which have been deciphered.

The object, is thought to have calculated and displayed celestial information, particularly cycles such as the phases of the moon and a luna-solar calendar. It dates from the around the end of the 2nd century B.C.; however, the origins are unclear, as are the circumstances by which it came to be on the cargo ship.

The ship was Roman, but there is no doubt that the mechanism itself was made in Greece. One hypothesis is that the device was constructed at an academy founded by the ancient Stoic philosopher Posidonius on the island of Rhodes, which at the time was known as a centre of astronomy and mechanical engineering.

A new study now shows that the ancient analog computer is far more sophisticated than first believed. The results of the study appeared last Thursday in Nature Magazine.

The device is displayed in the Bronze Collection of the National Archeological Museum in Athens. Another reconstruction is on display at the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, Montana.

Sources: The Antikythera Mechanism Home Page

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[Edited by Simon – Minor format change] 

reedited by cs

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