Scientist tackles mystery of ancient astronomical device
The shoebox-size chunk of bronze didn’t attract much attention when divers retrieved it from an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901. Archaeologists on the expedition had their hands full with far more impressive finds, including life-size statues of warriors and horses, delicate glass bowls and scores of ceramic vessels called amphorae.
Decades would pass before scientists realized that the nondescript bronze - now called the Antikythera Mechanism - was the biggest treasure of all.
The device consisted of a series of intricate, interlocking gears designed to predict eclipses and calculate the positions of the sun, moon and planets as they swept across the of the sky.
The machine exhibited a level of technological sophistication no one dreamed was possible when it was built, at least 2,000 years ago. Europe produced nothing to equal it until the geared clocks of the Medieval period, more than a thousand years later. Some scholars describe the Antikythera Mechanism as the world’s first analog computer. Read more.