The Antikythera mechanism
The Antikythera mechanism (Greek: O μηχανισμός των Αντικυθήρων transliterated as O mēchanism?s tōn Antikythērōn) is an ancient mechanical analog computer (as opposed to digital computer) designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 80 BC.
The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
|An analogue astronomical computer
* Built c. 87 B.C.
* Lost c. 76 B.C.
* Discovered in 1901
* off the island of Antikythera
* Officially Spelled Andikithira;
* also known as Cerigotto, Sijiljo, and Stus.
* 50 meters long
* Located 15 - 25 meters off Point Glyphadia
* In 43 m of water, 140 ft
Diving on the Wreck
* SCUBA Diving invented 42 years after discovery of the wreck
* Dive times of 9 minutes
* 4 min for ascent and decent
* 5 mins bottom time
Recreational SCUBA Depth Limits
* 18 meters Novice
* 30 meters recommended
* 40 meters Absolute
(for non-decompression diving)
* Cold Water
* At 40 meters water exerts 5 times atmospheric pressure leading to:
o Nitrogen Narcosis Rapture of the deep
o Decompression Sickness The Bends.
The Human Costs
* Ten divers worked on the wreck
* One diver was accidentally killed
* Two divers were permanently disabled
* Marble & Bronze Statues
* Gold Jewelry
* Utensils & Tableware
* The Antikythera Mechanism The most complicated piece of scientific machinery known from antiquity.
The mechanism was found by chance in the remains of an ancient ship, discovered sometime before Easter 1900 at a depth of 42 m. Many statues and other artifacts were retrieved on site by Greek sponge divers. The mechanism itself was discovered on May 17, 1902, when archaeologist Valerios Stais noticed that a piece of rock recovered from the site had a gear wheel embedded in it. Upon examination, it was found that the "rock" was in fact a heavily encrusted and corroded mechanism which had survived in three main parts and dozens of smaller fragments. The device itself was surprisingly thin; about 33cm (13in) high, 17cm (6.75in) wide and 9cm (3.5in) thick, made of bronze and originally mounted in a wooden frame. It was inscribed with a text of over 2,000 characters, of which about 95% have been deciphered. The full text of the inscription has not yet been published.
The device is displayed in the Bronze Collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, accompanied by a reconstruction. Another reconstruction is on display at the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, Montana.
During the first data-gathering phase in the autumn of 2005, the most innovative technologies were used to reveal unknown elements of the mechanism. This research was carried out by two world-class high technology companies, Hewlett Packard (US) and X-Tek Systems (UK). X-Tek's superb three-dimensional x-rays were imaged using software
from the leading German company, Volume Graphics. Technical support was also provided by the University of Keele (UK). The whole process was filmed by Tony Freeth's Film and Television production company, Images First, for a forthcoming TV documentary.
During September 2005, three specialized scientists from Hewlett-Packard's Mobile and Media Systems Laboratory came to Athens with their innovative digital imaging system to examine the surface inscriptions and other features on the Antikythera Mechanism. The HP team-Tom Malzbender, Dan Gelb and Bill Ambrisco-brought with them a remarkable piece of specialist equipment: a Dome that surrounds the sample under examination and takes a series of still photos to analyze the three-dimensional structure of the surface. This enables astonishingly detailed examination of fine details such as faded and worn inscriptions. It has been a revelation for the research team.
]X-Tek?s 400kV microfocus CT equipment has been used to probe the secrets of the ancient artefact, estimated to date from around 80 BC. Discovered in 1900 AD in a shipwreck in the Greek islands, the Antikythera Mechanism contains over 30 gear wheels and dials and the remains are covered in astronomical inscriptions. It may be a device to demonstrate the motion of the Sun, Moon and planets, or to calculate calendars or astrological events.
Although the Mechanism is no bigger than a shoe box, it?s too priceless and unique to leave the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, so a major expedition in late 2005 brought an X-ray tomography machine, weighing over 7.5 tonnes, to examine the artefact in Greece.
As the results of the research are analysed, the structure and purpose of the mechanism, now in dozens of fragments, will become clearer. X-Tek?s imaging equipment has enabled researchers to view inscriptions inside the Mechanism which haven?t been seen for over 2,000 years and work can now continue on counting the gear teeth and deciphering the inscriptions. Looking at the data with X-Tek, academic principal investigator Professor Mike Edmunds commented, "The outstanding results obtained from X-Tek?s 3-D x-rays are allowing us to make a definitive investigation of the Mechanism. I do not believe it will ever be possible to do better."
X-Tek?s Managing Director Roger Hadland added, "We are delighted to be able to exhibit the cutting-edge capabilities of our X-ray technology in this way." The project has ably demonstrated that X-Tek?s X-ray technology, originally developed for industry, can be inventively used for a wealth of other applications.
A final conclusion on the Mechanism?s purpose is expected in 2006, after full examination of the data. The investigation continues to be filmed for a major TV documentary.
Read about the press conference in Athens in May 2006 at which interim results were presented.
The Antikythera Research Project is a joint programme between Cardiff University, Athens University, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, X-Tek Systems UK and Hewlett-Packard USA, funded by the Leverhulme Foundation.
For more information please contact:
Professor M.G. Edmunds,
Interactive Relighting of the Antikythera Mechanism
In September, 2005, as part of the Antikythera Research Project, we were able to access the device in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens to apply reflectance imaging techniques to the front and rear surfaces of the > 70 fragments that comprise the mechanism. A small portion of these ?reflectance images?, or PTMs, are provided at reduced resolution.
Antikythera Mechanism animation files
Gears entering from below download 13.9MB
Simplified rotating download 26.7B
Complete rotating download 30.5MB
* American Mathematical Society's The Antikythera Mechanism I and The Antikythera Mechanism II (Java Animation by Bill Casselman)
* Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki's Geartrain diagram
* Manos Roumeliotis's Antikythera Mechanism MOV files
* Rupert Russell's The Antikythera Mechanism
* Price, Derek J. de Solla, "An Ancient Greek Computer". Scientific American, June 1959. p. 60?67.
* Rice, Rob S., "The Antikythera Mechanism: Physical and Intellectual Salvage from the 1st Century BCE". USNA Eleventh Naval History Symposium.
* The Economist, "The Antikythera mechanism: The clockwork computer". September 19, 2002.
* Rice, Rob S., "Gears, Galleys, and Geography The Antikythera Mechanism's Implications". Text of the 1993 APA Abstract.
* Rosheim, Robot Evolution: The Development of Anthrobotics. Wiley-IEEE, 1994
* Lienhard, John H., Antikythera Mechanism. "The Engines of Our Ingenuity". KUHF-FM, Houston.
* Wright, M T., papers:
o ?Simple X-ray Tomography and the Antikythera Mechanism?, PACT (Revue du groupe europ?en d'?tudes pour les techniques physiques, chimiques, biologiques et math?matiques appliqu?es ? l'arch?ologie or Journal of the European Study Group on Physical, Chemical, Biological and Mathematical Techniques Applied to Archaeology), vol.45 (1995), pp. 531 ? 543.
o ?Current Work on the Antikythera Mechanism?, Proc. Conf. Αρχαία Ελληνική Τεχνολογία (Ancient Greek Technology), Thessaloniki, 4 ? 7 September 1997, pp. 19 ? 25.
o ?A Planetarium Display for the Antikythera Mechanism?, Horological Journal, vol. 144 no. 5 (May 2002), pp. 169 ? 173, and vol. 144 no. 6 (June 2002), p. 193.
o ?Towards a New Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism?, ed. S.A. Paipetis, Proc. Conf. Extraordinary Machines and Structures in Antiquity (Ancient Olympia, August 2001), Peri Technon, Patras 2003, pp. 81 ? 94.
o ?In the Steps of the Master Mechanic?, Proc. Conf. Η Αρχαία Ελλάδα και ο Σύγχρονος Κόσμος (Ancient Greece and the Modern World) (Ancient Olympia, July 2002), University of Patras 2003, pp. 86 ? 97.
o ?Epicyclic Gearing and the Antikythera Mechanism, part 1?, Antiquarian Horology, vol. 27 no. 3 (March 2003), pp. 270 ? 279.
o ?The Scholar, the Mechanic and the Antikythera Mechanism?, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 80 (March 2004), pp. 4 ? 11.
o ?The Antikythera Mechanism: a New Gearing Scheme?, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 85 (June 2005), pp. 2 ? 7.
o ?Ο Μηχανισμός των Αντικυθήρων? (The Antikythera Mechanism), Αρχαιολογία & Τέχνες 95 (June 2005), pp. 54 ? 60.
o ?Il meccanismo di Anticitera: l?antica tradizione dei meccanismi ad ingranaggio? (The Antikythera Mechanism: evidence for an ancient tradition of the making of geared instruments), in: E. Lo Sardo (ed.), Eureka! Il genio degli antichi, Naples, July 2005 ? January 2006), Electa Napoli 2005, pp. 241 ? 244.
o ?Epicyclic Gearing and the Antikythera Mechanism, part 2?, Antiquarian Horology, vol. 29 no. 1 (September 2005), pp. 51 ? 63.
o ?Counting Months and Years: the Upper Back Dial of the Antikythera Mechanism?, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 87 (December 2005), pp. 8 ? 13.
o ?The Antikythera Mechanism and the early history of the Moon Phase Display?, Antiquarian Horology, vol. 29 no. 3 (March 2006), pp. 319 ? 329.
o ?Understanding the Antikythera Mechanism? Proc. Conf. Αρχαία Ελληνική Τεχνολογία (Ancient Greek Technology), Athens, October 2005; in preparation (Preprint).
o Mr Michael Wright, staff page at Imperial College, London
* Derek De Solla Price. Gears from the Greeks: The Antikythera Mechanism?A Calendar Computer from ca. 80 BCE. Science History Publications, New York, 1975, ISBN 0871696479; originally published in Transaction of The American Philosophical Society, New Series, Volume 64, Part 7, 1974.
* James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Ancient Inventions. Ballantine, 1995, ISBN 0345401026.
* Pastore, Giovanni, Antikythera E I Regoli Calcolatori, Rome, 2006, privately published 
* Russell, Rupert, "The Antikythera Mechanism" 
* Russo, Lucio, "The Forgotten Revolution : How Science Was Born in 300 BCE and Why it Had to Be Reborn". Springer , 2004, ISBN 3540203966.
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