The Antikythera Mechanism

Dr. Christián C. Carman
De Zwarte Doos

The Antikythera Mechanism. The first computer?

In early 1900, a group of sponge divers found many ancient treasures at the bottom of the sea, close to the shore of the Antikythera Island, Greece. Among them, fragments of what appeared to be a very complex geared device, dated to the second century BC, now known as the Antikythera Mechanism . The extant fragments of the mechanism are currently in permanent exposition at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece.

Derek de Solla Price has made important contributions to understanding its function and structure during the sixties and seventies. Nevertheless, the most amazing discoveries were done in the last few years, thanks to the contributions of Michael Wright and Tony Freeth and his team. Today there are several research teams attempting to solve some puzzles about this device. The Mechanism has the appearance of an ancient clock, it appears to have had more than 30 gears and many pointers indicating the positions of the sun and moon (and probably also the planets) in the Zodiac, the day on an Egyptian calendar, the rise and setting of important stars, the day and month in a very complicated moon-solar calendar based on a 19 year cycle, and it predicted eclipses, informing which kind of eclipse and the hour of the day at which it would take place. Finally, a pointer turning one revolution every four years indicated the Pan-Hellenic games that would take place on each year.
The discovery of the Mechanism caused a revolution in our understanding of the history of technology and astronomy and it tampers with the classical idea that the Greeks where just theoretical thinkers. In this talk dr. Christián C. Carman presents the history of the discovery of the mechanism and its main functions.

Dr. Christián C. Carman is a researcher at the National University of Quilmes Argentina and the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research.