The Antikythera Mechanism

Located near Kythera in the Aegean Sea between mainland Greece and Crete, Antikythera is a tiny island that now occupies a big space in the archaeological world. In 1900, Greek sponge divers going about their work found a shipwreck about 50 meters below the surface. On this sunken vessel were all sorts of artifacts, most importantly an incredibly unique device named the Antikythera Mechanism. Years of research have revealed it was designed to calculate dates and predict astronomical phenomena, and many regard it as being the earliest analog computer.

The ship is believed to be Roman and sank sometime in the middle of the 1st century BC. It was hauling a vast amount of objects dating back as early as the 4th century BC, and due to the large amount of items needing research, the mechanism wasn’t studied for 70 years. However once it’s significance was discovered, learning about its origins and function was immediately made a priority.

Inside the mechanism there are at least 30 bronze gears housed inside in a timber container that’s around the size of a shoebox. On the face is a clockwork mechanism that’s highly advanced for its time and allowed the user to move forward or backward in time and calculate the movement of starts and other astronomical objects. It also tracked the seasons and ancient festivals like the Olympics. What’s even more amazing is that similar astronomical clocks only reappeared in Europe in the 14th century!

There’s so much to this amazing object that numerous academic papers have been written about. For laymen like us, we can but marvel at its wonder. If you want to learn more about the Antikythera Mechanism and see it for yourself, then visit the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.