What is the Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism is a 2,000 year old analog device dating back to ancient Greece. It was used to track the position of the moon and the sun, to predict the occurrence of eclipses and to signal the old Olympic games. The device could also perform basic arithmetic like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The Antikythera mechanism was made with bronze gears 30. These gears are enclosed in a box of the size of a shoe in wood and bronze that was built towards the tail of 2 nd century BC. The gears bear some resemblance to 20 th and 21 st century computer. Apart from the gears, there are calendars and spheres to represent the solar system and the moon. Studies show that there was a main lever to control all functions. On the outer surface, there is a small inscription written in Greek. The researchers used this inscription to fully understand the operation of the device. These inscriptions are found on both front and rear doors.

Discovery and origin

The Antikythera mechanism was first discovered by Greek divers in 1900. A year later, in 1901, the device was recovered by a few feet 148 below the water level near the island of Antikythera in Greece. The device and other artifacts were then transferred to the government and remained in a museum for two years before what the device could actually do was discovered. As the device has some missing parts, more and more shipments have been sent to the site to see if it is possible to acquire more pieces.

Research on the device suggests that the mechanism was created by Greek astronomers and mathematicians during the Hellenistic period based on its quality and complexity. The initial dating of the device placed it at about 85 BCE, but some research has suggested that it may be older than that, dating back to around 150 BCE.


The front face of the Antikythera mechanism has two concentric circles. The inner circle has signs for the Zodiac signs of the Greeks with partitions in degrees. The outer circle has marks for calendar days 365. Besides the circles, there were at least two pointers that showed the positions of the celestial bodies. One of the indicators was for the moon while the other was to show the position of the sun and perhaps also the current date.

The back or rear of the mechanism has five quadrants: two large displays, the Saros and the Metonic (including three small pointers), the Games or the Quadrant of the Olympics, the Exeligmos and the Callippic. The game dial is the only one that moves counterclockwise while time goes on. The studies on the device show that the Olympiade dial did not really foresee the years of the Olympics and was therefore renamed in the quadrant of the games.


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