UK team crack Antikythera code

DIVING NEWS

UK team crack Antikythera code

A Mechanism

Exploded model of the Antikythera Mechanism's cosmos gearung. (Picture: Tony Freeth.)

It was one of the most significant discoveries ever made at a shipwreck site: the 2000-year-old Antikythera Mechanism, retrieved by sponge divers in Greece 120 years ago, is reckoned to have been the world’s first-known analogue computer. But it was incomplete, and its workings have baffled scientists ever since.

Now researchers at University College London (UCL) report that they have solved a major piece of the puzzle, and could now be in a position to recreate the bronze device, the most complex piece of engineering to have survived from the ancient world, as it originally worked.

The divers, working off the island of Antikythera, retrieved a single aggregation that was later found to contain some 82 pieces of the device in the remains of a wooden box, but around two-thirds of it were never found. The Antikythera Mechanism is kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

With its intricate combination of 30 surviving bronze gears, the mechanism was designed to predict astronomical events such as eclipses, lunar phases, planetary positions and even propitious dates for the Olympic Games, but the mystery lay in exactly how it was able to do this.

A new study by the multi-disciplinary UCL Antikythera Research Team has revealed that a complex gearing system at the front of the mechanism is in fact a display of the ancient Greek order of the universe, or cosmos.

The biggest surviving fragment included bearings, pillars and a block, while another featured an unexplained disc, a 63-tooth gear and a plate.

X-rays had previously revealed thousands of text characters hidden inside these fragments, including a description of a display of the cosmos, with planets indicated by beads moving on rings. The team had set out to reconstruct this display.

Two key numbers among the inscriptions appeared to represent cycles of Venus and Saturn. “The classic astronomy of the first millennium BC originated in Babylon, but nothing in this astronomy suggested how the ancient Greeks found the highly accurate 462-year cycle for Venus and 442-year cycle for Saturn,” said researcher Aris Dacanalis.

14 March 2021

Using an ancient Greek mathematical method, the team not only managed to explain how the cycles were derived, but also recovered those of all the other planets, even though the evidence for these was missing.

The researchers created “innovative mechanisms for all of the planets that would calculate the new advanced astronomical cycles and minimise the number of gears in the whole system, so that they would fit into the tight spaces available”, said Prof Tony Freeth, lead author of a paper now published in Scientific Reports.

The team now plan to reconstruct the entire Antikythera Mechanism using only the type of techniques that would have been available in ancient times.

biggest

LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH!

Get a weekly roundup of all Divernet news and articles 🤿

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Divernet Posts

Diver Magazine Relaunch

Diver magazine needs YOU!

Are you still lamenting the demise of Diver magazine? Well now you can help resurrect an icon as we seek to bring back the magazine

Turtles of Raja Ampat

Turtles of Raja Ampat

The Raja Ampat Creature Feature Series: Turtles Raja Ampat is the perfect diving location to find four of the seven ocean turtle species of the

manta ray and diver over reef in Komodo

Divers pitch into Komodo manta probe

Manta rays choose to stick around Indonesia’s Komodo National Park in unusually large numbers – and, according to a new diver-led study, this community could

female diver holding pair of Fourth Element Tech fins

Tech fins inspired by humpback whales

Whales provided the inspiration for optimising efficiency in Fourth Element’s latest fins, according to the Cornwall-based manufacturer. The “turbulence disruptors” on top of the blades

Last Breath portrait of Woody Harrelson

Woody dives into Last Breath remake

A new version of the British documentary-thriller that captured the imaginations of divers in 2019 is about to be previewed at the Cannes Film Festival.

Follow Divernet on Social Media