Greek: Μηχανισμος των Αντικυθηρων
What: An Ancient computer that calculates astronomical positions.
Discovered: 1900-1901 at the Antikythera shipwreck
Built: 1st Century BC
The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient computer that was designed to calculate astronomical position. The device was discovered in 1900-1901 just off the Greek island of Antikythera by a group of sponge divers. There they discovered a ship wreck dating back to the 1st century BC and among the ship’s treasures was this device. During its time the device would have been housed in a wooden box and comprised of 30 gears all in different shapes and sizes with instructions written on the device in Koine Greek. It is thought that the device may have been constructed on the Greek island of Rhodes, which was known as the centre of astronomy and mechanical engineering at the time.
The device worked by turning a small hand crank to the correct date which in turn turned the gears around showing the calculation of the position of the Sun and Moon, moon phases, eclipse cycles, the location of the five known planets at the time and the timing of the ancient Olympic Games. It is thought that the device may have been designed by the Greek mathematician Archimedes as Cicero’s De re public mentions of a similar device brought to Rome after the death of Archimedes at the siege of Syracuse in 212 BC.
Ancient Greek Discoveries: Antikythera Mechanism – The world’s first computer: