The Temporary Exhibition of the Mechanism and the Antikythera shipwreck...>>
   
 
   
 

The Antikythera Mechanism

Material: Bronze
Provenance: Antikythera shipwreck. From the material retrieved in 1900-1901
Date: Second half of the 2nd century BC
Inv. no: X 15087

Τhe recovery of the Mechanism among the other objects from the cargo of the ship that sank off Antikythera makes this shipwreck unique and of major importance. Seven large fragments (Α-G) and 75 minor pieces (1-75) have survived. Their exact position and the original structure of the Mechanism are still a matter of intense investigation. It contained at least 30 gearwheels as well as dials, scales, axles and pointers. The greek, astronomical inscriptions on the surface of the Mechanism refer to astronomical and calendar calculations, while the inscriptions on its metal protective plates contain instructions for its use. The Mechanism was protected by a wooden case, which had a bronze plaque on the front and the back side.

The Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest preserved portable astronomical calculator. It displayed the positions of the Sun, the Moon and most probably the five planets known in antiquity, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It was used to predict solar and lunar eclipses, it kept an accurate calendar of many years, and displayed the date of Pan-Hellenic games that took place at Nemea, at Isthmia, at Delphi, at Dodona and at Olympia.

Its construction dates to the second half of the 2nd century BC. Its technology, which recalls the successors of Archimedes and the school of Poseidonius on the island of Rhodes, was the result of the development of philosophy and of exact sciences that took place in Greece until this era, and also draws on knowledge of the Hellenistic Age (celestial parameters, mechanical design and use of epicyclic gearing). The Mechanism bears witness to the astronomical, mathematical and mechanical ingenuity of ancient Greeks in Late Hellenistic period.

Bibliography: P.D. Rediadis, O εξ Αντικυθήρων αστρόλαβος, in: Ι.N. Σβορώνος, Το εν Αθήναις Εθνικόν Μουσείον. Ο θησαυρός του ναυαγίου των Αντικυθήρων, Athens 1903, Vol. Α, 44-52. P.D. Rediadis, Το εξ Αντικυθήρων αστρολάβον, ΑΕ 1910, 157-172. D.J. de Solla Price, Clockwork before the Clock, Horological Journal 97 (1955) 811-813. D.J. de Solla Price, Clockwork before the Clock, Horological Journal 98 (1956) 31-34. D.J. de Solla Price, On the Origin of Clockwork, Perpetual Motion Devices and Compass, United States National Museum Bulletin 218, Washington D.C. 1959. D.J. de Solla Price, An Ancient Greek Computer, Scientific American 200 (1959) 60-67. D.J. de Solla Price, Gears from the Greeks: The Antikythera Mechanism - A Calendar Computer from ca. 80 B.C., TransactAmPhilosSoc 64.7 (1974) 5-70, reprinted as a monograph by the Science History Publications, New York 1975. M.Τ. Wright, An Apparatus for Linear Tomography of the Antikythera Mechanism, Working notes, Science Museum, London 1990. M.T. Wright - A.G. Bromley - H. Magou, Simple X-Ray Tomography and the Antikythera Mechanism, Proceedings of the Second Conference of Archaeometry in South Eastern Europe in Delphi, 19-21 April 1991, PACT 45 (1995) 531-543. M. Wright - A.G. Bromley, Current Work on the Antikythera Mechanism, Proceedings of the Conference on Ancient Greek Technology, Thessaloniki 1997, 19-25. G.J. Toomer, Ptolemy's Almagest, Princeton 1998. Μ. Edmunds - Ρ. Morgan, The Antikythera Mechanism: Still a Μystery of Greek Αstronomy?, Astronomy and Geophysics 41.6 (2000) 10-17. Τ. Freeth, The Antikythera Mechanism: 1. Challenging the Classic Research, Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 2.1 (2002) 21-35. Τ. Freeth, The Antikythera Mechanism: 2. Is it Posidonius'Orrery?, Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 2.2 (2002) 45-58. M.Τ. Wright, A Planetarium Display for the Antikythera Mechanism, Horological Journal 144.5 (2002) 168-173 and 144.6 (2002) 193. M.Τ. Wright, Epicyclic Gearing and the Antikythera Mechanism, Part 1, Antiquarian Horology 27.3 (2003) 267-279. M.Τ. Wright, In the Steps of the Master Mechanic, in: Ancient Greece and the Modern World, Proceedings of a Conference in Ancient Olympia 2002, University of Patras 2003, 86-97. M.T. Wright - A.G. Bromley, Towards a New Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism, in: S.A. Paipetis (ed.), Extraordinary Machines and Structures in Antiquity, Proceedings of a Conference of Archaeometry in South Eastern Europe in Ancient Olympia 2001, University of Patras 2003, 81-94. M.Τ. Wright, The Scholar, The Mechanic and the Antikythera Mechanism: Complementary Approaches to the Study of an Instrument, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society 80 (2004) 4-11. M.Τ. Wright, The Antikythera Mechanism, Seminars in the History of Science and Technology, Science Museum and Imperial College, December 2004. M.Τ. Wright, The Antikythera Mechanism: a New Gearing Scheme, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society 85 (2005) 2-7. M.Τ. Wright, Ο Μηχανισμός των Αντικυθήρων. Η κατασκευή οργάνων στην αρχαιότητα, Αρχαιολογία και Τέχνες 95 (2005) 54-60. M.T. Wright, Epicyclic gearing and the Antikythera Mechanism, Part 2, Antiquarian Horology 29.2 (2005) 51-63. Μ.Τ. Wright, Counting Months and Years: The Upper Back Dial of the Antikythera Mechanism, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society 87 (2005) 8-13. M.T. Wright, Understanding the Antikythera Mechanism, Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Ancient Greek Technology, Athens 2005, 49-60. T. Freeth - Υ. Bitsakis - Χ. Moussas - J.H. Seiradakis - Α. Tselikas - Η. Mangou - Μ. Zafeiropoulou - R. Hadland - D. Bate - Α. Ramsey - Μ. Allen - Α. Crawley - Ρ. Hockley - Τ. Malzbender - D. Gelb - W. Ambrisco - M.G. Edmunds, Decoding the Ancient Greek Astronomical Calculator known as the Antikythera Mechanism, Nature 444 (11/2006) 587-591. M.T. Wright, The Antikythera Mechanism and the Early History of the Moon-Phase Display, Horological Journal 29.3 (2006) 319-329. J.M. Steele, The Solar/lunar Functions of the Antikythera Mechanism in the Context of Mesopotamian and Greek Astronomy, στο: Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism, Conference in Athens, 30th November - 1st December 2006. J. Evans - L. Berggren, Geminos's Introduction to the Phenomena: A Translation and Study of a Hellenistic Survey of Astronomy, Princeton 2006. M.Τ. Wright, The Antikythera Mechanism Reconsidered, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 32.1 (2007) 27-43. T. Freeth - A. Jones - J.M. Steele - Y. Bitsakis, Calendars with Olympiad Display and Eclipse Prediction on the Antikythera Mechanism, Nature 454 (07/2008) 614-617. M. Zafeiropoulou - P. Mitropoulos, The Antikythera Shipwreck, the Treasure and the Fragments of the Mechanism, στον τόμο: IUHPS/DHST, Book of Abstracts, XXIII International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Ideas and Instruments in Social Context, 28.7 - 2.8 2009, Budapest Hungary, Budapest 2009, 221. T. Freeth, Decoding an Ancient Computer, Scientific American 301.6 (12/2009) 76-83. F. Espenak - J. Meeus, Five Millennium Canon of Lunar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000 (2000 BCE to 3000 CE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, online at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEpubs/5MCLE.html (2009). J. Evans - C.C. Carman - A.S. Thorndike, Solar Anomaly and Planetary Displays in the Antikythera Mechanism, Journal for the History of the Astronomy 41 (02/2010) 1-39. M.T. Wright, The Antikythera Mechanism: Reconstruction as a Medium for Research and Publication, in: Κ. Staubermann (ed.), Reconstructions, National Museums Scotland 2011, 1-20. M. Edmunds, An Initial Assessment of the Accuracy of the Gear Train in the Antikythera Mechanism, Journal for the History of Astronomy 42.148 (2011) 307-320. X. Moussas, «Πίναξ». Το Πρώτο Μηχανικό Σύμπαν. Ο Μηχανισμός των Αντικυθήρων. Ο αρχαιότερος υπολογιστής και αστρονομικό όργανο, Athens 2011. T. Freeth - A. Jones, The Cosmos in the Antikythera Mechanism, ISAW Papers, 4. To be available at http://dlib.nyu.edu/awdl/isaw/isaw-papers/4 (2012).
Contributions, R. Proskynitopoulou, Ε. Magou, Μ. Zapheiropoulou, in: Ν. Kaltsas - Ε. Vlachogianni - P. Bouyia (eds), The Antikythera Shipwreck. The Ship - The Treasures - The Mechanism, Exhibition Catalogue, National Archaeological Museum, April 2012-April 2013, Athens 2012.

 
 
 
 
 
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