What is the Antikythera Mechanism | The Oldest Calculator Ever Known

If we ask any student who invented the calculator or where it was invented, almost none would refer to the Antikythera mechanism. The answers could be anything, but none would be close to reality and many less would refer to an astronomical calculator with more than 2,100 years old.


Antikythera Mechanism

Antikythera mechanism at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece


The Antikythera mechanism was found by sea sponge seekers among the numerous remains of jewelry, coins and statues of bronze and marble from a Roman galley that was shipwrecked off the coast of the Greek island that gives it its name, Antikythera. Also you may have noticed a rather curious looking Google Doodle crop up on your desktop. The device was found on May 17, 1902, which means that today is the discovery’s 115th anniversary.


Antikythera Mechanism


The 82 bronze fragments stored  today in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens – were inside a wooden box with numerous inscriptions with valuable information (names of months in Corinth, planets, etc.).  Now The  Antikythera Mechanism is the first attraction of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens for its many secrets inside. For historians, it is a challenge and always try to know its origin and function.


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Not all experts agree with the interpretation of the  Antikythera mechanism . It was the archaeologist Stais in 1902 who believed that it was an astronomical clock. Edmunds and T. Freeth believed that the artifact was used to predict solar eclipses and lunar eclipses, taking as reference the knowledge in arithmetic progression of the Babylonians. Edmunds, for his part, said he could show planets like Venus and Mercury .


However, Price had a more celestial theory: Antikythera’s mechanism would be used to set the schedule for agricultural and religious festivals. And Wright, with the reconstruction of the instrument (72 gears), added that he could show the movements of the five known planets at that time.


What seems clear is that Antikythera’s mechanism consists of at least 37 precision gears, made of bronze, with which it could accurately calculate astronomical positions and movements, recreate the irregular orbit of the Moon,and perhaps establish the Position of planets.

According to research, it would be an astronomical clock to calculate accurately the position of some planet and satellites, a calendar to predict eclipses, determine dates of planting and harvesting, religious holidays or even to start the Olympic Games.


Today we are able to reach the most unexpected places, to calculate surprising distances and to achieve all that the Greeks ever dreamed of. Just to think that an artifact of such characteristics as the mechanism of Antikythera  was created more than 2,000 years ago, gives us to think that we are facing a civilization much closer to ours than we can imagine.

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