Antikythera Mechanism: The Ancient Greek Artifact that Continues to Amaze Scientists



May 17 is celebrated in the scientific world as the day the Antikythera Mechanism was discovered in 1901. This astoundingly intricate machine is an ancient Greek device which some scientists have called the world’s first computer.

The Antikythera Mechanism was discovered inside an ancient shipwreck by Greek sponge divers in 1901. After numerous studies, it was estimated to have been constructed between 150 BC and 100 BC. A later study places it at 205 BC, just seven years after the death of Archimedes.

Data from decoding the inscriptions inside the mechanism show that it can be considered  the world’s oldest computer, which gave its user the ability to see exact times of eclipses of the moon and the sun, as well as the correct movements of celestial bodies.

On one side of the device lies a handle which begins the movement of the whole system. By turning the handle and rotating the gauges in the front and rear of the mechanism, the user could set a date that would reveal the astronomical phenomena that would occur around the Earth.

Physicist Yiannis Bitsakis has said that of course, today the NASA website can detail all the eclipses of the past and those that are to occur in the future.  However, “what we do with computers today, it was done with the Antikythera Mechanism about 2000 years ago,” he said.

By successfully reading 3,400 characters from the fragmented inscriptions, the research team has been able to recognize entire sentences, which has aided in understanding the functional object, forming something like a “manual” for the use of the instrument.

Space Physics professor Xenophon Moussas has said that “today’s computers and mobile phones have their roots in the gears of the mechanism,” as evidenced by the inscriptions found on the object.

“The most important thing is that we see laws of physics applying inside the mechanism, and the proof is in the inscriptions and the numbers 76, 19, 223 that also show the name of the manufacturer, which tell us clearly ‘I am a Pythagorean,’” Moussas said.

As the professor argued, this machine is the root of all civilization and technology and in fact, it is the oldest computer “tablet.”

The Mechanism also includes an astrological calendar, as the indicators seem to revolve around the zodiac, revealing the movements of both the Moon and the planets.

Making this incredible machine even more impressive is the fact that the movements of the planets are directly linked to specific observation sites, suggesting that the creator of the Antikythera Mechanism had provided for the use of the machine in more than one location.

This incredible realization came about when scientists saw that the words “Dodona” and “Alexandria” have been found in the machine’s engravings. The mechanism also included methods to estimate the time of sporting events held every four years, such as the Olympic Games and the Isthmian games, according to claims made by researchers.

All the scientists involved in the analysis of this incredible device as well as many other researchers, agree that the Antikythera find is the most important maritime shipwreck discovery in human history.