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The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism: How was it made?

The Antikythera Mechanism is one of the great enigmas of the ancient world: a complex, multi-geared device that acted as a computer of sorts to predict the movements of the heavens, believed to have been constructed more than 2000 years ago. Since its discovery, in corroded fragments, in a shipwreck off the the coast of Greece in 1901, there have been many efforts to understand and piece the jigsaw of its parts back together – the most recent of which made news just last week.

That news story was accompanied by an excellent video covering the Antikythera Mechanism’s history, the efforts to understand it over the past century, and the latest discovery (I unfortunately can’t embed it as it is domain restricted) – I highly recommend watching the full 30 minutes of the feature to better understand this amazing device. But the group’s elegant solution to how the original makers might have created the movement of the planets did come with the caveat, that they’re not sure how it would have been done without modern machinery like a metal lathe.

To get a sense for some of these difficulties, be sure to check out the playlist of videos embedded below from Clickspring Projects, in which they use a blend of both modern and older techniques to try and recreate the Antikythera Mechanism, taking the viewer on the process of discovery with them (originally mentioned some four years ago here on the Grail, but much more progress and many more videos have since been made).

And to learn more details about the complete story of the Antikythera Mechanism (at least, up to the previous decade), I recommend Jo Marchant’s book Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer – and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets.