The Antikythera Mechanism Decoded

HomeScience and ArchaeologyThe Antikythera Mechanism Decoded

I love a good mystery.

No, not the Agatha Christie kind…those have never really caught my attention. I mean the real mysteries of life: Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids, the Money Pit, and the rest. As a trivia nut, I’m as fascinated by what we don’t know as by what we do know.

One of the lesser-known mysteries is called the Antikythera Mechanism. It is, quite simply, the world’s oldest complex scientific calculator. Found in a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera and dated to between 150BC and 100BC, its purpose was unknown for over 100 years.

The video below shows professor Michael Edmunds of Cardiff University demonstrating his recreation of this famous artifact. It’s a calendar, or a time-based calculator, designed to show the positions of certain astronomical bodies like the moon and sun and the 5 then-known planets. The original architect may have been the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, whose theories are displayed in the lunar functions of the device. Recent evidence suggests that the concept may have originated in Corinth, and may have been the work of Archimedes.

Either way, it’s wicked awesome. Note that – as far as we knew – nothing this sophisticated had been made until the 1700s. One more mystery solved…but the one remains is the one that never goes away: what other kinds of awesome things have been lost that we still don’t know about?


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