Studying an ancient computer from Antikythera

Discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century near Crete high-tech mechanism is one of the arguments claims that our history books are on development humanity contains many white spots.

A discovery ignored by historians for decades just now presented to the world shocking arguments that the technological progress of our civilization is not at all what we are imagined him.

Learning an Ancient Computer from AntikytheraA photo from open sources

In 1900, the Greek sponge diver Elias Stiatiatos, working near the island of Antikythera, accidentally stumbled upon a sea bottom to the remains of the vessel. This discovery was made possible only thanks to a happy coincidence. Two days diving until Easter with quite intense excitement.

Strong waves exposed the remains of a sunken ship near a small island. The skeleton of the ship was 50 meters long and was at a depth of 43 meters. Diving to such a depth in those days without professional equipment was rather unsafe occupation.

This find aroused interest among the Greek authorities. In place of this many values ​​were discovered in shipwrecks: boxes with coins, jewelry and marble statues. Dating detected subjects did not present great difficulties for archaeologists. Vessel sank in the 1st century BC during the flight from Rhodes to Rome.

During the rise of these treasures, one out of ten divers died and the other two paid with their health. When in this place Many years later, the famous researcher Cousteau turned out to be there. there was virtually nothing to look for. Almost everything that could be lifted from a sunken ship by the Greek authorities.

A photo from open sources

But the artifact that caused so much controversy was discovered nevertheless later. During careful sorting of items raised from the bottom archaeologist Valerio Stais on May 17, 1902 drew attention to pieces of bronze covered with limestone that did not fit anything and, at first glance, they looked like fragments of some big clock. Stais suggested that this could be ancient astronomical for hours, and in due time even wrote a scientific work on this subject. This publication has not been favorably accepted by the Greek. archaeological community. Many accused him of cheating, obscene man, occupying an important position in the museum.

Critics of Stais simply could not reject an established position about the use of sundial in Greece. No one could even imagine imagine that in those days there were such complex mechanical devices. It was generally accepted that the ancients Greeks with great mathematical knowledge constructed for scientific purposes of the device, but at the same time the mechanisms of these devices simplicity of execution was peculiar. Devices like raised from the bottom of the Aegean at Antikythera, were known to the Greeks in antiquity, but using them for such complex astronomical calculations contradicted historical data.


The scientific paradox of the early twentieth century led to the contradiction: “Greeks are could create, but, however, did not create. “Can we now recognize Stais’s widely quoted words in the press that “this is the most complex fragment of the scientific mechanism of antiquity, “a manifestation of scientific fantasies, since it’s too tempting to be true?

The antikythera affair was, as often happens, put “under the cloth” so that over time someone could look at him more openly. In 1958, historian Derek J. de Solla Price accidentally stumbled upon a strange artifact and decided elect him as the object of his scientific research, the results which were later published on the pages of the scientific journal “Scientific American”. The scientist understood that he was dealing with something unusual, which repeatedly sounded in his statements. At with the participation of a team of specialists, he initiated a reconstruction project this subject and the establishment of its purpose.

Dr. Price in an interview expressed his sincere surprise and understanding that in this case you have to deal with an unprecedented find. “Nowhere else in the world has any one such tool, “he said openly.” Nothing that we could compare with it, we do not know from the ancient written sources. Quite the contrary. Everything we know about science and technology Hellenistic era, in general, contradicts the existence of such a complex technical device at the time. Detection of such an item can be compared, perhaps, with the discovery of a jet plane in the tomb of Tutankhamun. ”

A photo from open sources

The preliminary results of Dr. Price’s studies did not leave doubt that the device was designed to calculate short and long astronomical cycles. That alone was sensation. It is well known that in European civilization differential mechanisms appeared only in 1575 in hours Eberhard Baldwin. The fact of the ancient origin of such a device was difficult for acceptance by the scientific world and Dr. Price is fine understood the consequences of such dating. But the time he spent their studies were favorable enough for in-depth studying the essence and functions of this mechanism.

Astronomical connotations

At least twenty gears have survived, including their mounts placed eccentrically on the rim. Two rotating videos that were well preserved in the device indicated differential nature of the mechanism. Individual elements throughout gear designs were made of one piece of bronze with low in copper. Gears were attached with one side to the bronze plate. On the side of the case passed the shaft that rotated the wheels. The mechanism was originally enclosed in a small rectangular wooden box with mounted the doors.

Dr. Price and his device reconstruction option

A photo from open sources

Assigning a motion calculation function to this complex device stars and planets were not purely speculative. Price noticed that the front dial has been preserved well enough for it it was possible to determine the function of the device. “It has two scales, from which one was motionless and contained zodiac signs, – specified Dr. Price. – The second, placed on a movable ring showed months of the year.

Both scales are carefully marked by divisions (…) Of course, this the dial showed the annual movement of the sun in the zodiac. What As for other signs on the disk, it seemed that the device calculated the calendar sunrise and sunset of bright stars and constellations throughout the year. ”

Dr. Price was aware that the device was centuries ahead of its era and science had to redefine historical knowledge about an era of more than one and a half thousand years ago. Ancient Facts the origin of the device stubbornly caught the eye. The main surviving Greek evidence of this inscriptions on a mysterious artifact.

In the question of the translation of the preserved inscriptions, Price helped the epigraphy George Stamires. Quoting Dr. Price’s words: “On some of plates were barely recognizable inscriptions made on Greek 1st century BC They themselves already pointed to astronomical purpose of the device. Scientific community it remained either to defiantly ignore the research results Dr. Price, or simply pretend that this find is simply not exist.

Looking for Greek scholars

An amazing mechanism from Antikythera besides its of an unprecedented nature somehow nevertheless fit into historical the framework in which it could be found consistent. About research tools that were used in astronomy, mention in their writings Cicero and Ovid. First, who lived in the 1st century BC, talked about the instrument, “designed by Posidonius, which was reconstruction of a planetarium indicating the position of the sun, moon and five planets.

A photo from open sources

A similar mechanism was allegedly constructed by Archimedes and, believable, he was abducted in 212 BC roman commander Marcellus when Archimedes was killed in a Sicilian city Syracuse. For many years this device was stored as a relic in the Marcellus family. ”

But, despite these written references, the scientists remained big doubts, about which Dr. Price put it this way: “Even the very sophisticated devices described by ancient authors, based on a simple transfer. For example, a taximeter, used by the Greeks to measure distances in his work used a pair of gears to get the necessary coefficient of motion. Can it be argued that since the Greeks were familiar with the basics of drive mechanics, whether they were able to design such a complex device as a mechanical planetarium?”

We don’t know how the cars designed by Archimedes looked like, but from written descriptions we can judge that these devices are not were compact. They performed more decorative functions than served for calculations. The mechanism from Antikythera is definitely scientific an apparatus in which technical knowledge was involved. The device is far beyond structural abilities of the ancient Greeks. Price quite accurately emphasized this, arguing that even today it would be difficult for modern people explain the meaning of the action of such a device.

Despite all this, there is no doubt that someone possessed so much developed knowledge that were used to create such complex device. Who then could create such a technically advanced design? As one of the suspects in this maybe Gemin – an astronomer, mathematician and philosopher all rolled into one, disciple and follower of Posidonius. Gemin lived in 135-51 BC, was a Stoic, belonged to the philosophical school founded by Zeno. Rhodes Island was a very important center of astronomical research.

The device from Antikythera in theory fits perfectly into knowledge context of stoic philosophy, mainly mathematical. Gemin here would be an ideal candidate. So what importantly, he lived in a suitable time for this. Significant here is the date on which the device from Antikythera was configured, and which was pointed out by several scientists who studied it – according to the position of its pointers and dials.

It was 86 BC – special year in context astronomical theme. At this time, there were as many as five connections planets. It was the perfect time to build someone astronomical calendar. However, it is not known whether this The “calculator” is installed on such a date much earlier.

Theories point to Egypt?

The theory of astronomical clocks is quite interesting, but, according to researcher Moris Chatelovna, in all this something was missing very significant – namely, logic. Chatelovin argued: “if someone wants to create an astronomical device in the form of gear calculator, the first condition for this will be the calculation of the number of cycles required to obtain the exact number of days. Some of these loops are pretty simple. to install, but much here will be almost impossible. ”

A photo from open sources

Each of the gears is one cycle, this is how it works. watch mechanisms. Seconds are converted to minutes, minutes to hours, the last – in days and further into longer cycles. To create such watches, their designer should not only have no idea not only about each of these cycles, but also about their relationships, that is, how many seconds per minute (60: 1), minutes per hour (60: 1), hours in days (24: 1) and so on. There are many difficulties in constructing such a calendar based on a sunny year. And here is note that the calculator from Antikythera also considers the cycles of the moon and the five nearest planets. No wonder scientists skeptical of the claim that this device was only … device.

The genius of the mechanism designer from Antikythera was far ahead knowledge of ancient Greek science and many other older civilizations, as he was able to calculate the cycles of such the number of celestial bodies. Used by the Greeks the so-called Meton’s cycle, according to Chatelovna, did not match the level knowledge used in antikythera calculator.

According to Chatelovna, only the Egyptian calendar could be suitable as a basis for such a calculator and maybe it was one of the foundations used to create the antikythera devices.

Not everyone, however, shares the opinion of Chatelovna. Certain doubts about this are related to one of the remaining inscription device: “76 years, 19 years.” This applies to the cycle. Callippa, in which four methone cycles were reduced by one day. In other words, the 76 year cycle consisted of 940 lunations and 27759 days.

The next mark contains the number “223”, which refers to eclipse cycle of 223 lunar months. Dr. Price himself admitted that “with the Meton cycle it was easy to design a mechanism, in which one revolution would show the annual cycle on the dial and at the same time would generate revolutions of disks showing sidereal, synodic and draconic months. ”

Similar cycles have been known in many other cultures. Arithmetic calculations were used, by the way, and in Babylonian astronomy. This knowledge was later instilled in Hellenistic worldview as early as BC There is no doubt, that the cycles used were not of Greek origin. But the question remains: the Egyptians or the Babylonians were the source of these knowledge?

Dr. Price’s Research Awakens Interest in the Antikythera find by other scientists. Along with technological progress and the advent of the computer era attempts to reconstruct the device in The following years became increasingly promising.

In 1993, Australian programmer Allan J. Bromley of University of Sydney along with watchmaking by Master Frank Percival attempted to reconstruct the mechanism. In that X-ray images of the inner part were of great help find contents made using Michael Wright from Imperial College London. Already then Bromley and Percival were surprised by the unusual accuracy of the mechanism.

Shocking was the discovery of the locking mechanism in the device, which prevented the slipping and jamming of the teeth during gear movement time. Interesting was also discovered the delay mechanism used in the irregular simulation orbits of the moon.

John Glive, who later joined the group, performed final design of the device. His reconstruction showed annual movement of the Sun and Moon in the Zodiac, consistent with egyptian calendar. However, to maintain neutrality in the debate regarding the origin of the mechanism, John admitted that the top the rear regulator refers to a four-year period and integrally linked to the Meton cycle. Lower back knob meant single synodic month, while the lower scale on the knob belonged to the lunar year, consisting of twelve synodic months.

The next reconstruction was completed in 2002 by Michael Wright, researcher at the Museum of Science in London. In November 2006, he an article was published in the scientific journal Journal Nature, where he confirmed the availability of tools in the prediction device solar and lunar eclipses. Wright emphasized Dr. Price’s contribution to study of the mechanism from Antikythera, but also admitted that “his the interpretation cannot be fully accepted. ”

New research has confirmed that this machine, designed for complex astronomical calculations, disposed of the main the front dial with two dials: Greek and Egyptian calendars. In the back, two dials showed lunar cycles and eclipses. Previous allegations that the device was used to predict eclipses, so far there have been only a hypothesis. Now, after reconstruction and computer simulations, there was no more doubt about this.

Moreover, studies have shown that the mechanism is very sophisticated engineering product. For example, the presented lunar cycle correctly reflects the orbit of the moon with preservation of its complex ecliptic, characteristic of a satellite. To make such calculations, the designer of this device was to apply very advanced variational systems in position gear wheels.

A group of scientists also recognized more texts placed on the device, such as: “Venus” and “stationary”, which indicated that this tool was able to take into account the oncoming motion of the planets.

Wright concluded that the Antikythera mechanism was not single device. It could be a mass product. To be maybe it was an improved model of earlier designs that have completely sunk into oblivion. Only one is surprised the fact that such an advanced technique was not continued in subsequent eras. It is ironic that the development process of such analytical machines faded away in one place in order to more than a thousand years later to be reborn again.

Translation from Polish – V. Gaiduchik

Time Ancient artifacts Egypt Eclipses Moon Islands Sun

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