Ancient Antikythera shipwreck has more secrets to reveal

Ancient Antikythera shipwreck has more secrets to reveal


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In 2015, researchers began carrying out a five-year study of the ancient Greek shipwreck off Antikythera Island that had onboard the famous Antikythera mechanism, hailed as the world's first computing device, as well as other treasures. An analysis of the wreck at that time identified two areas with artifacts and ship remnants, leading archaeologists to believe that there may have been another ship that went down simultaneously. Alternatively, the two areas of remnants may be separate parts of the Antikythera wreck after it split in two.

Greek officials approved the extension of studies of the ancient vessel, which may have been 50 meters (164 feet) long. Researchers are expecting to find more treasures from the ship, which is located at the bottom of the Aegean Sea, in the south of Greece. This time they will focus on areas where they've found metal objects and pottery in the past.

In 2016, the underwater work gave big results – a skeleton . Archaeologists have dubbed the human remains Pamphilos. They believe Pamphilos was in his late teens to early 20s when he died. They hope to be able to access the skeleton’s DNA and gain some insight on the people who died in the shipwreck. Brendan Foley of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said, “This is the most exciting scientific discovery we’ve made here. We think he was trapped in the ship when it went down and he must have been buried very rapidly or the bones would have gone by now.”

"The evidence shows this is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered," Foley said. "It's the Titanic of the ancient world."

Although the skeleton is a remarkable find, one of the most significant artifacts recovered from the wreck is an object now known as the Antikhythera mechanism , described as the world’s first analog computer. After decades of research, scientists were able to determine that it shows the positions of the sun, moon, and planets as they move through the zodiac, predicts solar and lunar eclipses, and even marked key events such as the Pan-Hellenic games. The discovery of this unique form of ancient technology, along with other treasures, including finely carved bronze and marble statues, glassware, jeweler, and coins, have led researchers to wonder what else may lie within the shipwreck.

The Antikythera Mechanism found in a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera in Greece. (Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis / flickr )

The ship probably sank between 70 and 60 BC and is believed to have been carrying Greek luxury cargo to Rome. It may have been sailing from Asia Minor.

In the first phase of the studies, in 2014, researchers found multiple lead anchors a meter (1.1 yards) long and bronze rigging with some wood still attached. The wood proves that much of the ship has survived over the centuries. Wooden planks, artifacts, and other debris are spread across 300 meters (360 yards) of sea floor. The hull planks and large anchors proves the ship was up to 50 meters long.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute website details some of the finds:

The archaeologists also recovered a beautiful intact table jug, part of an ornate bed leg, and most impressive of all, a 2-meter-long bronze spear buried just beneath the surface of the sand. Too large and heavy to have been used as a weapon, it must have belonged to a giant statue, perhaps a warrior or the goddess Athena, says Foley. In 1901, four giant marble horses were discovered on the wreck by the sponge divers, so these could have formed part of a complex of statues involving a warrior in a chariot that was pulled by the four horses.

A group of Greek sponge divers returning from North Africa discovered the wreck in 1900 when they ran into a severe storm. At the island of Antikythera, the divers anchored their boat, and waited for the storm to subside. While on Antikythera, some of the crew decided to dive along the island’s coastline in search of clams for a meal. One of the divers, Ilias Stadiatis, stumbled upon something far more remarkable – the remnants of a ship that laid at a depth of between 42 and 50 meters (137 to 164 feet) under the sea. Stadiatis even brought an arm from a bronze statue from the wreck to his companions.

The captain of the boat, Dimitrios Kontos, alerted authorities in Athens about the wreck. A vessel of the Hellenic Royal Navy was sent to Antikythera to aid recovery operations. Later a civilian steamship and Greek Navy torpedo boat were also sent to the island.

Representatives of the Greek government, the crew and the sponge divers on the deck of the Greek navy ship Mykali in winter 1900/1901, pulling up objects from the Antikythera shipwreck ( Wikimedia).

Over the next couple of months, Greek divers made a great effort to salvage the wreck. At that time, the standard diving equipment was a thick canvas suit and copper helmet. The divers salvaging the Antikythera Shipwreck had only one of these suits to share, and each diver only dived for 10 minutes, twice a day. Due to the extreme depth, the recovery operation was highly dangerous and in the process two divers lost their lives and one was paralyzed.

Because of the dangers of diving at such depths and the lack of more sophisticated equipment, the salvage operation could not continue. It was only in 1953, and again in 1976, that the famed French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau briefly visited the site of the Antikythera Shipwreck.

Apart from these two intervals, the site remained undisturbed for decades. Although no further explorations were carried out, there were enough artifacts from the site for archaeologists to date the wreck.
In September 2014 investigation of the Antikythera Shipwreck resumed under the ‘Return to Antikythera’ project. Armed the latest technology, the research team is set on unlock the secrets of the wreck. Using mixed gas closed circuit rebreathers and the Exosuit, the divers of this project are in a much safer position than their predecessors. An autonomous robot carrying stereocameras and sonar was employed to map the site.

Exosuit (robot exo-suit with human operator inside) developed by Nuytco research. (Photo by American Museum of Natural History)

Featured image: Diver Alexandros Sotiriou finds a ceramic table jug and a bronze rigging ring from the Shipwreck. (Photo by Brett Seymour, Return to Antikythera 2014)

By Mark Miller


“Antikythera” - the Ancient Greek shipwreck still holds secrets

The ancient shipwreck, which was discovered by a couple of sponge fishermen over a century ago off the coast of Antikythera (a small Greek island ) obviously doesn't reveal all its secrets at once.

The 2,085 years old shipwreck became famous with the holding of what is considered the world's oldest computer, called Antikythera.

Earlier this year, the Greek authorities have approved a five-year extension for an international team of explorers to continue probing the remains of the ship, which likely sank between 70 B.C. and 60 B.C.

The first phase of the project “Return to Antikythera” was completed in October 2014. During the shipwreck underwater observation, explorers found tableware, a lead anchor, a giant bronze spear that may have been part of a statue of a warrior or the goddess Athena, also several other artifacts.

The video below is a tribute from Swiss clock-maker Hublot and film-maker Philippe Nicolet to this device. For more than a century, researchers were trying to understand its functions:

After the newly approved extension, the team of researchers will have the chance to search for other artefacts, such as pottery and metal object, in some already known shipwreck hotspots. Except excavating treasure and artifacts from the ship, the team also intends to complete a detailed map of the wreck site.

The second phase of the project is expected to begin at the end of the summer. As part of the preparation works for the new research, the exploration team sent an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to digitally survey the shipwreck. The operation started on June 9 and ended on June 19.

On June 13, researchers had the luck to locate small pieces of copper-, bronze-, lead- and iron-bearing materials, while observing with the AUV and its metal detector.

Just few days later, the autonomous underwater vehicle was too much closer with the artifacts, taking pictures and collecting spatial data. The distance between the artifacts in relation to each other was measured as well.

The pieces of the Antikythera shipwreck will be excavated after the end of this summer and over the next five years.

The first phase of the project was started in 2012, as a joint effort between the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Greece and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Both organisations will continue to cooperate on the second phase, with an additional aid from WHOI's diving robotic Exosuit, nicknamed by the researchers as the "Iron Man for underwater science."

The first two-year expedition resulted in a 3D model of the seafloor with photos of the ancient ship wreckage. The map included also a data with all metal-reach locations, which were sent to the geoinformation system (GIS) database. It is an archive of all known geographic data for the region since 1900.

According to researchers findings, there are two sites, which are separated by 328 feet. This means either the ship broke into two sections after smashing into the rock coast, or there were two ships that simultaneously met their doom.

Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from WHOI commented:

"The evidence shows this is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered. It's the Titanic of the ancient world."

Since the beginning of the expedition, the shipwreck site has revealed various artifacts.

In a statement regarding the latest discoveries, Angeliki Simosi, the director of the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, said:

"The shipwreck of Antikythera offers a glimpse into the diversity of its cargo."

Furthermore she explained that the findings confirmed the existence of a luxury-goods trade route along eastern Mediterranean countries.

"The ship that sank at Antikythera was not merely a cargo ship. It was essentially a floating museum", she said.

The video below shows a Virtual Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism:

“Antikythera” shipwreck history:

It was discovered in October 1900 by two sponge fishermen off the coast of the small Greek island Antikythera. The dive of the fishermen revealed pieces from the shipwreck lying 45 metres under the water. They brought out to the surface an arm from a bronze statue and many other small artifacts.

Together with the Greek Education Ministry and Royal Hellenic Navy, the sponge divers recovered various statues, including those of Ulysses, Diomedes and his horses, Ermes and Apollo. By the middle of 1901, divers had recovered statues arbitrarily named "The Philosopher".
Soon after, one of the divers died and some others were paralyzed from decompression sickness, which put to an end the artifacts recovery from the wreck.

Later in 1953, Captain Jacques Cousteau, famous French naval officer and underwater explorer, along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering professor Harold "Doc" Edgerton, sailed to Antikythera and discovered another shipwreck marked by a lead anchor and amphoras (two-handled vessels for holding a liquid like wine or oil) sticking out of the sand.

Cousteau returned to Antikythera in the fall of 1976 for a television series about the history and attractions of Greece. Over the course of 27 days, Cousteau and his team recovered hundreds of objects, including ceramic vessels, parts of marble statues, bronze statuettes, bronze coins, gold jewelry, gemstones, glassware and human skeletal remains.

However, the most significant discovery was made on 17 May 1902 by the former Minister of Education, Spyridon Stais. When he was analyzing the artifacts in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, he noticed a severely corroded piece of bronze, which had inscriptions and a gear wheel embedded in it.

The object would come to be known later as the Antikythera mechanism or astrolabe. Originally thought to be one of the first forms of a mechanised clock or an astrolabe, it is at times referred to as the world’s oldest known analog computer.


What mysteries could be unlocked by new Antikythera shipwreck finds?

Excavation has revealed fragments of bronze sculpture and raises the possibility of several buried statues in the area. So what do these discoveries tell us?

A diver holds a bronze disc discovered during the 2017 underwater excavations at Antikythera, Greece. Photograph: Brett Seymour/EUA/ARGO 2017

A diver holds a bronze disc discovered during the 2017 underwater excavations at Antikythera, Greece. Photograph: Brett Seymour/EUA/ARGO 2017

Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 17.03 GMT

The shipwreck at Antikythera, Greece, continues to reveal its secrets and surprise archaeologists. As reported last week, recent excavations on the 1st century BC shipwreck have revealed statue fragments, bronze ornamentation, and wooden remains from the ship’s hull. The finds are sensational, but the artifacts and the project have broader importance.

The Antikythera shipwreck is best known for its Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device known as the world’s oldest computer, which was discovered by sponge divers in 1900. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

Among the finds was the bronze arm of a statue, which may be the most significant find. When the shipwreck was first found and excavated in 1900-1901, a number of bronze and marble statues were recovered. However, the arm is the first piece that has been found recently and it might point to more intact statuary in the area. The arm is one of several limb fragments that do not have corresponding bodies. The Antikythera team hypotheses those statues could be in the vicinity of the undisturbed deposit that they excavated this year. New bronze statues would be a sensational discovery.

Bronze statues are among the rarest artifacts to survive from antiquity however, ancient authors tell us that they were quite common. Pausanias wrote a Roman travel guide of Greece and he describes the many bronzes statues filling cities like Athens. In Greek Bronze Statuary Professor Carol Mattusch writes,“all ancient literary accounts indicate that freestanding bronze statuary was the primary mode of artistic expression in Classical Greece.” Ancient cities like Athens and Rome were filled with bronze sculptures, with bronze being preferred over marble.

Why do so few bronze statues survive today? I spoke with Professor Mattusch, who explained that few examples have been found on land due to the value of bronze. Statues were melted and recycled, leaving only relative handful today. Therefore, statues from the sea are important discoveries. “Bronze statues from the sea have significantly increased the numbers of classical bronzes that survive today,” says Mattusch. Examples found in the sea include the famous youth riding a horse and statue of Zeus or Poseidon currently in the Greek National Museum, the Riace statues depicting two warriors, and the Athlete of Croatia. Due to their loss in the sea, these statues were protected from the bronze recyclers.

The Antikythera project is significant because it can tell us a great deal about ancient statues and their transport. It is the first project to excavate a cargo of bronze statues in situ using modern methods. The majority of bronzes found in the sea are isolated finds or found in fishers’ nets. This includes the Athlete of Croatia, which was excavated by archaeologists, but it was not part of a shipwreck. Careful excavation may reveal much about the past, as well as contribute to our understanding of ancient art. Mattusch explains that “there is much more to be learned from the careful excavation of an ancient shipwreck,” since these sites have a closed context like a time capsule. Shipwrecks reveal information about the economy and trade routes, as well as ship construction. These sources all contribute to the understanding of ancient statuary, since “fixed dates are a rare thing for finds from classical contexts” according to Mattusch. Amphoras from the cargo, dendrochronology from the ship’s wood, and dates from other artifacts contribute to the dating of bronze statuary, which is typically dated based stylistic features.

The excavation of an undisturbed deposit may shed new light on the ancient transport of statuary. Are these statues part of a consignment of scrap metal for the recyclers? Or are they being used as heavy ballast? Are they new statues that are part of a high value cargo, such as the shipwreck found at Madhia carrying bronze furniture pieces? Or could this be plunder or the resale of Greek statues to Roman buyers? These hypotheses have been proposed in the past, but the excavation offers the first opportunity to address them. The future work on site is “bound to add much-needed information to our knowledge of the statue industry in classical antiquity,” says Mattusch.

A bronze arm found by excavators at Antikythera shipwreck last month. Photograph: Brett Seymour/EUA/ARGO 2017

Hidden behind the headlines is another impressive part of the project: the truly challenging nature of diving on the site. The physicality of working in a relatively remote area at a depth of 55m is rarely communicated to the public. Diving to such great depth increases the chance of decompression sickness, also known as “the bends.” Divers must carefully monitor their dive time and follow strict decompression protocols to ensure they can safely exit the water. While operating under these strict health and safety protocols, they must also move boulders, delicately excavate artifacts, and deploy the latest scientific methods. The project has addressed the difficulties through the use of five PhD archaeologists and a technical diving staff. “We’ve hit upon a good recipe,” says Dr Brendan Folely. The archaeologists are able to focus on the work while the technical divers monitor the dives. The partnership proves that precise archaeological excavation can be undertaken underwater at great depths. The project has a perfect safety record and continues to make impressive discoveries.

The bronze arm on the seafloor during the excavation. Photograph: Brett Seymour/EUA/ARGO 2017

Excavation of the Antikythera shipwreck will continue in 2018. Last year the team found human remains and this season provided a tantalizing undisturbed deposit. With the potential to locate several of the missing statues, one can hardly imagine what the next season will bring. Whether it is contributing new understanding of ancient art or pushing archaeology forward through its technical diving and underwater sciences, the Antikythera team has us all riveted.


Scientists Model the Secret Gears of the Ancient Antikythera Mechanism

In 1901, divers looking for sponges off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera shot holes through the idea that computers are a modern invention with the discovery of a 2,000-year-old Roman-era shipwreck containing a puzzling machine that was eventually identified as a sophisticated astronomical calculator that became known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Engineers quickly identified it as the world’s first known analog computer, but missing pieces and the lack of an owner’s manual frustrated attempts to recreate the Antikythera Mechanism … until now.

“Solving this complex 3D puzzle reveals a creation of genius—combining cycles from Babylonian astronomy, mathematics from Plato’s Academy and ancient Greek astronomical theories.”

University College London (UCL) researchers are obviously excited about their 3D model, explained in their new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Led by UCL Professor Tony Freeth, the team started with the 82 fragments recovered from the shipwreck, which over the years have been partially identified as pieces of complex gears. In 2006, Freeth used surface imaging and high-resolution X-ray tomography on once-hidden surfaces to find inscriptions that are parts of a user’s guide to the mechanism. Unfortunately, any recreation of the Antikythera Mechanism was stymied by the lack of any parts from the front display. Undeterred, Freeth believed the rest of the parts could help.

“For example, there are certain features in the surviving bits—holes and pillars and things like that—which people have said: ‘well, we’ll just ignore that in our explanation. There must be a use for that but we don’t know what it is so we’ll just ignore it.’ Effectively, what we’ve done is we’ve not ignored anything. So the enigmatic pillars and holes, all of a sudden, now make sense in our solution. It all comes together and it fits the inscriptional evidence.”

In simple terms, the team looked at the back and figured out what was screwed into it from the front. The 2006 inscriptions helped, as did another in found in 2016 which revealed that the front cover included a pair of values, 462 years and 442 years. According to Vice, the works of the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides linked these numbers to Venus and Saturn – specifically, they are the planets’ synodic periods respectively – the time it takes for the planets to return to the same position in the sky. The researchers then factored in the belief of astronomers at the time that Earth was the center of solar system and reverse-engineered a system of gears to that would match the calculations. All that was left was to recreate a front panel with holes for clock-like arms – one for each of the five known (at that time) planets – that would move around a picture of the sky as a handle on the side was turned. Oh, and one more twist from Adam Wojcik, a materials scientist at UCL and a co-author of the study:

“If you’re going to show all the planets, you’re going to have to get all their positions correct. As you rotate the handle on the side of the mechanism, all these little planets start to move around like clockwork in this kind of mini-planetarium and occasionally, one of them will turn backwards, and then it would move forwards again, and then another one, further out, will start to turn backwards.”

That’s right – the Antikythera Mechanism was able to duplicate the illusion of the planets moving backwards in the sky in relation to the Earth! Pretty impressive for ancient Greeks. Or is it? Wojcik knows what you’re thinking.

“Unless it’s from outer space, we have to find a way in which the Greeks could have made it. That’s the next stage and the exciting bit is, I think that’s the final piece of the jigsaw.”

Did the beings who some believe helped build the Egyptian pyramids make a stop in Greece before heading home? Ponder that while you check out the excellent photos of what the sponge divers found and what the researchers modeled – the beautiful bronze and mysterious Antikythera Mechanism.


An international research team led by archaeologists and technical experts from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and WHOI has discovered spectacular artifacts during its ongoing excavation of the famous ancient Antikythera Shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea.


Piecing It Together

To create this new model, the UCL team focused on two numbers on the front of the Antikythera Mechanism: 462 and 442.

That's how many Earth years it takes Venus and Saturn, respectively, to complete one cycle across the sky — but how the creators of the ancient computer knew that information was a mystery.

"The classic astronomy of the first millennium BC originated in Babylon," researcher Aris Dacanalis said, "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."

Recreating the cycles of those planets (and others) using this one device was further complicated by the fact that the ancient Greeks assumed the Earth — and not the sun — was at the center of the solar system.

The largest surviving piece of the Antikythera Mechanism. Credit: National Archaeological Museum, Athens

Using a mathematical method described by ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides as their guide, the UCL team devised an arrangement for the Antikythera Mechanism's gears that would cause it to display the correct information about the planets' cycles.

Their solution also minimizes the number of gears needed for the computer to work, ensuring that they'd all be able to fit within the confines of its wooden case.

"Solving this complex 3D puzzle reveals a creation of genius — combining cycles from Babylonian astronomy, mathematics from Plato's Academy, and ancient Greek astronomical theories," the authors wrote in their study.

UCL's computer model of the Antikythera Mechanism. Credit: Tony Freeth


Antikythera Shipwreck Yields More Treasures

The ancient Antikythera shipwreck -- a lavish Greek vessel that sank more than 2,000 years ago off the southwestern Aegean island of the same name -- isn't finished giving up its secrets.

The shipwreck was found by Greek sponge fishermen in 1900. Over the past century, marine archaeologists have recovered marble and bronze statues and sculptures from the wreck, along with an odd clock-like device that some call the "world's oldest computer."

Now an international team of archaeologists has recovered even more treasures -- a trove of more than 50 items, including a bronze armrest, remains of a bone flute, fine glassware, luxury ceramics, a pawn from an ancient board game and several pieces of the ship itself.

The researchers believe the new findings offer a glimpse into the opulent lifestyles of ancient Greece's elite societies.

"These artifacts show us the life of a newly emerging elite in Greece and Rome, with enormous wealth distributed among a larger elite than ever before in history," Dr. Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and co-director of the research team, told The Huffington Post in an email.

"The goods on the ship came from what is now Syria and Lebanon, cities in Anatolia and Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Paros, and Delos," he continued. "The ship and its cargo represent the start of an economy based on consumption of products from a wide area, borne on sea lanes, and supported by new mechanisms of insurance and diversification of risk."

A video released Monday (above) shows the archaeologists and divers scouring the seafloor and unearthing the artifacts. Jump to 5:45 in the video for an up-close look at the items.

Story continues below.

"We were very lucky this year, as we excavated many finds within their context, which gave us the opportunity to take full advantage of all the archaeological information they could provide," Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou, an archaeologist in the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports who participated in the research, said in a press release.

The artifacts were cleaned after being brought ashore, and the researchers have created 3D models of them. The archaeologists are also continuing to examine and analyze the artifacts to determine whether ancient DNA or remnants of food, perfumes or medicines can be identified.

They hope to recover even more items from the shipwreck.

"This wreck constantly surprises us with the array of artifacts it holds," Foley said in the email, adding that Theodoulou has said researchers should "expect the unexpected" from the ship.

"We believe there may be as many as six more life-sized bronze statues of gods and heroes still on the wreck," Foley said. "We suspect the skeletal remains of more passengers and crew remain in the sediments. And we expect many many more luxury goods."


The Antikythera Mechanism: A 2,000-year-old Computer

The Antikythera mechanism was found at the site of a shipwreck off the coast of a Greek island Antikythera. The wreck itself was found by sponge divers in April 1900 while looking for clams for a meal.

The divers reported their find to officials and eventually archeologist were sent to retrieve the artifacts from the wreck. Among the artifacts retrieve were misshapen corroded pieces of bronze which would remain unnoticed at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens for fifty years before kindling any interest in the historians.

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Two years passed before the bronze pieces received any significant notice in 1902. Archaeologist Valerios Stais examine the pieces and noticed what appeared to be a gear protruding from the encrusted coral.

Stais was the first to suggest that the device was some type of astronomical device. But scientist at the time rejected the idea thinking that the device of a more modern origin and had somehow become mingled in the wreck.

Finally in 1971 physicist/historian Derek John de Solla Price became interested in the artifact. Price enlisted the help of nuclear physicist Charalampos Karakalos to perform radiography on the artifact to peer inside.

What they found astonished them. They were seeing a complex devise of gears, dials, and inscriptions. But this type of archaeological investigation was in its infancy at the time and only provided a hint at what was to come.

Scientists had to wait least another 40 plus years for technology to develop means to further reveal the secrets of the artifact. It was not till recently with the development of 3d xray scans and high-resolution imaging for enhancing the faded inscriptions on the surface that the device could be understood.

The Antikythera Mechanism

We now know that the corroded pieces of bronze were once a small complex bronze analog computer that was built at least two thousand years ago. The device had more than thirty gears behind its dials and can be easily termed as one of the most advanced technological artifacts to be developed in the pre-Christian era.

The size of the Antikythera mechanism would have been about the same size as that of a mantel clock. The device was probably boxed inside a wooden case (with a large circular face and rotating hands) as indicated by the bits of wood that were found on the pieces recovered from the shipwreck. It also consisted of a handle on the side for operating the device. Turning of the handle drove a train of interlocking gearwheels and a minimum of seven hands at different speeds.

The various pointers depicted the position of the Sun, the Moon and the five planets Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn that can be seen by naked eye. The moon’s phases were represented by a rotating silver and black ball. Inscriptions provided information about the rising and setting of stars on any specific day. The two dials on the back side of the case represented a calendar for solar and lunar eclipse timings.

This meant that the device provided a great deal of astronomical information. Some researchers believe that the mechanism was possibly used for teaching astronomy but more likely it was used for astrology. Remember this is a time when astrology and astronomy were the same study.

With a simple turn of the dial astrologist of the time could view planetary alignments for any given day and time and then use these in their predictions. This along with its ability to predict portents such as solar and lunar eclipses most likely made these incredibly valuable devices.

The international effort Antikythera Mechanism Research Project supported by various universities and private companies continues to this day to unlock the secrets of the device. One revelation is that though the Antikythera mechanism may be the only known artifact of its kind there may be waiting to be discovered. Contemporary writings of the time make mention of such devices. In fact, it is believed that Archimedes of Syracuse, a very famous inventor, had designed and built several such devices.

This piece of lost ancient technology still astonishes and fascinates scientist to this day. It illustrates more than anything the gaps in our understanding of ancient history. Certainly it challenges or image of the ancients accomplishing everything with simple tool such as hammers and chisels.

Currently, the mechanism is on display at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, among the Bronze Collections. The American Computer Museum in Bozeman, Montana, also displays a reproduction of this mechanism.


What Exactly Is the Antikythera Mechanism?

All that remains of the Antikythera Mechanism are rusty brass gears, which used to live inside a heavily rotted wooden case about the size of a mantel clock. But, upon closer inspection, the machine is pretty incredible. Like a clock, it has a circular face, and, inside, at least two dozen rotating gears all fit together with astounding precision. According to scientists, that kind of precision shouldn’t have been possible until at least the 16th century.

The archeologists who first laid eyes on this artifact knew right away that it was an object of technological significance, but weren’t sure if it was a calendar, clock, or some other tool of measurement. For a while, experts thought it might be a toy planetary model or even a device used to calculate latitude.

But a breakthrough finally came in 1959. Princeton science historian Derek J. de Solla Price figured out that the Antikythera Mechanism could predict the positions of planets and stars based on the calendar month — or, at least, it could in its prime. The device’s primary gear represented the calendar year, and, in turn, this gear moved the smaller gears to depict the movements of the planets, sun, and moon.

In the June 1959 edition of Scientific American, Price announced that the Antikythera Mechanism was the world's first mechanical computer. He said, "The mechanism is like a great astronomical clock… or like a modern analogue computer, which uses mechanical parts to save tedious calculations."

That is, in its most basic form, a computer takes variables input by the user and completes complicated mathematical calculations to find the answer — and that’s precisely how the Antikythera Mechanism functioned. The mathematical ratios of the gears were the "code" that allowed for the device to compute and determine how the celestial objects would appear in the sky on any given day.


Marine archaeologists excavate Greek Antikythera shipwreck

Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items including an intact amphora a large lead salvage ring two lead anchor stocks (possibly indicating the ship’s bow) fragments of lead hull sheathing and a small and finely formed lagynos (or table jug). Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO

Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items including a bronze armrest (possibly part of a throne), remains of a bone flute, fine glassware, luxury ceramics, a pawn from an ancient board game, and several elements of the ship itself.

"This shipwreck is far from exhausted," reports project co-Director Dr. Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). "Every single dive on it delivers fabulous finds, and reveals how the '1 percent' lived in the time of Caesar."

The shipwreck dates to circa 65 B.C., and was discovered by Greek sponge fishermen in 1900 off the southwestern Aegean island of Antikythera. They salvaged 36 marble statues of mythological heroes and gods a life-sized bronze statue of an athlete pieces of several more bronze sculptures scores of luxury items and skeletal remains of crew and passengers. The wreck also relinquished fragments of the world's first computer: the Antikythera Mechanism, a geared mechanical device that encoded the movements of the planets and stars and predicted eclipses.

The 2015 expedition is part of a long-term research program at the site, which began in 2014. It was the first scientific excavation of the wreck, and launched the first comprehensive study of all of its artifacts. During the new multi-year program the team expects to recover artifacts and ancient artwork still buried in the seafloor, and recreate the history of the ship's exquisite cargo and its final voyage.

An expedition mounted in 2014 the researchers created a high-resolution, 3D map of the site using stereo cameras mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Hampered by bad weather, the expedition included just four dive days for professional technical divers who recovered a series of finds on the surface sediment and proved that much of the ship's cargo is indeed still preserved beneath the sediment.

The 2015 expedition marked the first time archaeologists were able to join specialist divers in descending to the 55-meter (180 feet) deep site. The ten-man dive team used advanced technical diving equipment including closed-circuit rebreathers and trimix breathing gases, performing 61 dives in 10 days of diving on the wreck. Credit: Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO

By contrast, this year's expedition included 40 hours of bottom time, with four professional archaeologists diving the site and performing controlled excavation to the highest scientific standard with specially designed equipment, and with the guidance of an exquisitely precise multi-dimensional map of 10,500 square meters of sea floor.

In addition to Foley, the 2015 exploration at Antikythera was conducted by the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities under director Dr. Ageliki Simosi and field archaeologists Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou and Dr. Dimitris Kourkoumelis.

The international team was in the field from 26 August to 16 September, following an autonomous robotic mapping effort conducted from 8-15 June in partnership with the University of Sydney, Australia. The project is the first-ever systematic excavation of this shipwreck, relying on the precise large-area map created by the robotic survey. Notably, this project marked the first time in the century since the wreck's discovery that archaeologists were able to join specialist divers in descending to the 55-meter (180 feet) deep site. The ten-man dive team used advanced technical diving equipment including closed-circuit rebreathers and trimix breathing gases, performing 61 dives in 10 days of diving on the wreck. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) monitored and recorded all diving activities, and served as a communications link between divers and support personnel on the surface.

The 2015 expedition has left the team with the best understanding yet of this unique shipwreck and its cargo. A metal detection survey of the site revealed that metallic targets are dispersed over an area of about 40x50 meters. This is thought to match the wreck's debris field, indicating the vast size of the ship that sank off the forbidding cliffs of Antikythera.

Metal detectors revealed the presence of buried objects throughout the wreck site. The dive team recovered items including an intact amphora a large lead salvage ring two lead anchor stocks (possibly indicating the ship's bow) fragments of lead hull sheathing a small and finely formed lagynos (or table jug) and a chiseled rectangular stone object (possibly the base of a statuette) perforated by 12 holes and filled with an as-yet-unidentified substance.

The international team was in the field from 26 August to 16 September, following an autonomous robotic mapping effort conducted from 8-15 June in partnership with the University of Sydney, Australia. Credit: Brendan Foley, EUA/ARGO

During the project, the dive team carefully excavated a series of nine trenches in the seabed using a water dredge powered by a submersible pump. The divers recovered more than 50 artifacts, most deeply buried beneath a thick layer of coarse sand and massive deposits of broken ceramics. From among these fragments, the team recovered wooden remains from the hull of the ship a section of bronze furniture, perhaps from a throne part of a bone flute a glass "chessman" board game element bronze nails from the ship's planks and portions of bronze, iron, glass and ceramic objects.

"We were very lucky this year, as we excavated many finds within their context, which gave us the opportunity to take full advantage of all the archaeological information they could provide," states diving archaeologist Dr. Theodoulou.

The team created 3D virtual reconstructions of many artifacts on the seafloor, and 3D-modeled all of the major recovered artifacts once on shore. A series of scientific analyses are now being conducted on these artifacts, including ancient DNA analysis of ceramic jars to identify the 2,000 year-old food, drinks, perfumes, and medicines contained in them. Isotopic analysis of lead objects will determine where the lead was mined, to reveal the home port of the ship.

Previously recovered artifacts from the Antikythera Shipwreck will be displayed in a special exhibition "Der Versunkene Schatz das Schiffswrack von Antikythera" [The Sunken Treasure of the Antikythera Shipwreck] at the Basel Antiquities Museum in Switzerland from 27 September 2015 to 27 March 2016. This is the first time that these ancient treasures have been allowed to leave the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.


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Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items including an intact amphora a large lead salvage ring two lead anchor stocks (possibly indicating the ship&rsquos bow) fragments of lead hull sheathing and a small and finely formed lagynos (or table jug). (Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO)

News Release Image

Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items including an intact amphora a large lead salvage ring two lead anchor stocks (possibly indicating the ship&rsquos bow) fragments of lead hull sheathing and a small and finely formed lagynos (or table jug). (Photo by Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO)

The 2015 expedition marked the first time archaeologists were able to join specialist divers in descending to the 55-meter (180 feet) deep site. The ten-man dive team used advanced technical diving equipment including closed-circuit rebreathers and trimix breathing gases, performing 61 dives in 10 days of diving on the wreck. (Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO )

News Release Image

The 2015 expedition marked the first time archaeologists were able to join specialist divers in descending to the 55-meter (180 feet) deep site. The ten-man dive team used advanced technical diving equipment including closed-circuit rebreathers and trimix breathing gases, performing 61 dives in 10 days of diving on the wreck. (Brett Seymour, EUA/ARGO )

The international team was in the field from 26 August to 16 September, following an autonomous robotic mapping effort conducted from 8-15 June in partnership with the University of Sydney, Australia. (Brendan Foley, EUA/ARGO)

News Release Image

The international team was in the field from 26 August to 16 September, following an autonomous robotic mapping effort conducted from 8-15 June in partnership with the University of Sydney, Australia. (Brendan Foley, EUA/ARGO)


Watch the video: THE ANTIKYTHERA SHIPWRECK IN BASEL SWITZERLAND1