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Archaeology & History

Archaeologists determine 'start date' of the Antikythera mechanism

By T.K. Randall
April 14, 2022 · Comment icon 5 comments

Who built this device, how does it work and when did it start operating ? Image Credit: Tony Freeth / UCL
It is now believed that the ancient device might have first started operating on December 22nd, 178 B.C.
Generally considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time, the remarkable 2,000-year-old mechanism is believed to be a form of early astronomical computer.

How the ancient Greeks developed the device, which is filled with a staggeringly intricate array of bronze gears, remains something of a mystery - especially given the time period it was built in.

Originally retrieved from a shipwreck by sponge divers, the mechanism was found alongside an array of other artefacts including coins, jewellery, pottery and statue fragments.

Since its discovery, the device has been the subject if intense study and debate with archaeologists struggling to piece together its function and origins.
Now a new study has put forward the possibility that the device first became operational on December 22nd, 178 B.C.

The researchers have suggested that a solar eclipse on that exact day, coupled with the winter solstice the following day - both important events at the time - would have made it the ideal candidate for a "characteristic, important and easily detected" start date.

While this conclusion is certainly intriguing, other experts have weighed in on the debate by playing down the likelihood that this particular date is accurate.

For example, if the specific start date was correct, other seasons and dates displayed on the device would be inaccurate (such as the grape ripening season being in the middle of February.)

As things stand, it's likely that the mysteries of the mechanism will endure for some time to come.

Source: Live Science | Comments (5)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Jon the frog 2 years ago
If it was a used device for coordination of event in an empire, multiple copies of this mechanism could exist. If it was a one hit wonder, it's way more difficult to decipher is importance.
Comment icon #2 Posted by NCC1701 2 years ago
It looks like a part of an electric alternator or another piece of junk that was tossed overboard by a ship's engineer and landed in the middle of an antique shipwrecks site. Corrosion does the rest. Move on people.
Comment icon #3 Posted by fred_mc 2 years ago
Reading that article, that start date seems highly speculative. Also, as it says in the article, there are things contradicting that start date. I don't think you can put any trust in it.
Comment icon #4 Posted by razman 2 years ago
It does seem hard to comprehend that a device that complicated could be made in the B.C. era.
Comment icon #5 Posted by moonman 2 years ago
It's an alternator made of dozens of gears with ancient symbols and language carved into the bits inside as found by modern scanning techniques? Do tell. You've obviously researched this device very well. Unless you were trying to be sarcastic.

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