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Ancient Time Piece

Some twenty-five miles north-west of Crete, in 1901, fishermen discovered an old wreck and its cargo of marble, pottery and other objects near the island of Andikithra, Greece. Among these items was an encrusted bronze object of undetermined use. It languished in the reserve section of a museum until 1955 when a curious scientist decided to clean it. He found that it was a complex instrument with cog-wheels fitting one into another. Finely graduated circles and inscriptions marked on it in ancient Greek were obviously concerned with its function. The object seems to have been a sort of astronomical clock without a pendulum. The cargo has enabled the shipwreck to be dated around the 1st century BC. The article below, taken from Wikipedia contains some very interesting information.

You can read more about this amazing device through these web pages:

The article below was taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Click here to visit the article and read any updates.

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical analog computer (as opposed to digital computer) designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 80 BC.
Sometime before Easter 1900, Elias Stadiatos, a Greek sponge diver, discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship off Antikythera island at a depth of 42 m. Sponge divers retrieved several statues and other artifacts from the site. The mechanism itself was discovered on May 17, 1902, when archaeologist Valerios Stais[1] noticed that a piece of rock recovered from the site had a gear wheel embedded in it. Examination revealed that the "rock" was in fact a heavily encrusted and corroded mechanism that had survived the shipwreck in three main parts and dozens of smaller fragments. The device itself was surprisingly thin, about 33cm (13in) high, 17cm (6.75in) wide and 9cm (3.5in) thick, made of bronze and originally mounted in a wooden frame. It was inscribed with a text of over 2,000 characters, about 95% of which have been deciphered. The full text of the inscription has not yet been published. The device is displayed in the Bronze Collection of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, accompanied by a reconstruction. Another reconstruction is on display at the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, Montana.
The origins of the mechanism are unclear, as are the circumstances by which it came to be on the cargo ship. The ship was Roman, but there is no doubt that the
mechanism itself was made in Greece.One hypothesis is that the device was constructed at an academy founded by the ancient Stoic philosopher Posidonios on the Greek island of Rhodes, which at the time was known as a centre of astronomy and mechanical engineering. Investigators have suggested that the ship could have been carrying it to Rome, together with other treasure looted from the island to support a triumphal parade being staged by Julius Caesar. [1]Another hypothesis is that the mathematician Archimedes constructed the mechanism. Archimedes developed the advanced geometry needed for the Antikythera mechanism's
construction. However, there is little to link Archimedes directly with the machine.
The Antikythera mechanism is one of the world's oldest known geared devices. It has puzzled and intrigued historians of science and technology since its
discovery. Following decades of work cleaning the device, in 1951 British science historian Derek J. de Solla Price undertook systematic investigation of the
mechanism. In June 1959, Price's "An Ancient Greek Computer" was the lead article in Scientific American. Price advanced the theory that the Antikythera mechanism was a device for calculating the motions of stars and planets, which would make the device the first known analog computer. Until that time, the Antikythera mechanism's function was largely unknown, though it had been correctly identified as an astronomical device, perhaps being an astrolabe.
In 1971 Price, by then the first Avalon professor of science history at Yale University, teamed up with Charalampos Karakalos, professor of nuclear physics at
the Greek National Centre of Scientific Research "DEMOKRITOS". Karakalos had gamma- and X-ray analysis carried out on the mechanism, which revealed critical information about the device's interior configuration.
In 1974 Price wrote "Gears from the Greeks: the Antikythera mechanism — a calendar computer from ca. 80 B.C.", where he presented a model of how the mechanism could have functioned. Recent research breakthroughs confirm Price's theory.The device uses a differential gear, previously believed
to have been invented in the 16th century, and is remarkable for the level of miniaturization and complexity of its parts, which is comparable to that of
18th century clocks. It has a differential gear arrangement with over 30 gears, with teeth formed through equilateral triangles. When past or future dates
were entered via a crank (now lost), the mechanism calculated the position of the Sun, Moon or other astronomical information such as the location of other
planets. The use of differential gears enabled the mechanism to add or subtract angular velocities. The differential was used to compute the synodic lunar cycle
by subtracting the effects of the sun's movement from those of the sidereal lunar movement. It is possible that the mechanism is based on heliocentric principles,
rather than the then-dominant geocentric view espoused by Aristotle and others. This may indicate that the heliocentric view was more widely accepted at the time
than was previously thought.It is probable that the Antikythera mechanism was not unique. Cicero, writing in the 1st century BC, mentions an instrument "recently constructed by our friend Posidonius, which at each revolution reproduces the same motions of the sun, the moon and the five planets." (Cicero was himself a student of Posidonius.) Similar devices are mentioned in other ancient sources. It also adds support to the idea that there was an ancient Greek
tradition of complex mechanical technology that was later transmitted to the Arab world, where similar but simpler devices were built during the medieval period.
The early 9th century Kitab al-Hiyal ("Book of Ingenious Devices"), commissioned by the Caliph of Baghdad, records over a hundred mechanical devices described in Greek texts that had been preserved in monasteries. Such knowledge could have yielded to or been integrated with European clockmaking and ancient cranes.
The device's full range of capabilities is unknown. Some investigators believe that the Antikythera mechanism could have been used to track celestial bodies for
astrologically auspicious occasions such as religious events or births. Price suggested that it might have been on public display, possibly in a museum or public
hall in Rhodes. The island was known for its displays of mechanical engineering, particularly automata, which apparently were a specialty of the Rhodians.
Investigations and reconstructions
Reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens (made by Robert J. Deroski, based on Derek J. de Solla Price model)
Price's model, as presented in his "Gears from the Greeks: the Antikythera mechanism — a calendar computer from ca. 80 BC", was the first, theoretical, attempt at reconstructing the device. According to that model, the front dial shows the annual progress of the Sun and Moon through the zodiac against the Egyptian calendar. The upper rear dial displays a four-year period and has associated dials showing the Metonic cycle of 235 synodic months, which approximately equals 19 solar
years. The lower rear dial plots the cycle of a single synodic month, with a secondary dial showing the lunar year of 12 synodic months. A British orrery maker named John Gleave constructed a replica based hereupon, though with some very slight modifications of his own in order for it to be functional. The following link gives an idea of the internals of this device, though later researchers have doubts as to whether Price's model is an accurate representation of the original Antikythera
Bromley & Percival
An ingenious variant on Price's reconstruction was built by Australian computer scientist Allan George Bromley (1947–2002) of the University of Sydney and Sydney clockmaker Frank Percival. Bromley went on to make new, more accurate X-ray images in collaboration with Michael Wright (see below). Some of these were studied by Bromley's student, Bernard Gardner, in 1993.
All previous reconstructions rely on data taken from the description by Derek J. de Solla Price. Michael Wright, formerly Curator of Mechanical Engineering at The
Science Museum, London, and now of Imperial College, London, made a completely new study of the original fragments together with Allan Bromley. For this, Wright designed and made apparatus for linear tomography, allowing resolution of radiographic images in three dimensions.The new data from this survey supersedes that of Price. Working from it, Wright has, between 2002 and 2005, developed an entirely different reconstruction. The arrangement of the surviving gearing is not as Price described. The function of both back dials is changed. There is evidence that further mechanism has been lost from under the front dial and that this dial display was more elaborate than previously supposed. Wright’s working model demonstrates the possibility that it might have been a fully-elaborated orrery, corresponding to those mentioned in ancient literature.
Wright points out that the detail of the instrument is less important than its significance as artifactual evidence for an established tradition of geared mechanism in Hellenistic antiquity that is otherwise known only through literary references. A line of development may be traced from these devices, through similar ones described in Arabic sources, to the medieval rise of the mechanical tradition of Western Europe.
Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
The Antikythera mechanism is now being studied by the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, a joint program between Cardiff University, the National and
Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, X-Tek Systems UK and Hewlett-Packard USA, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and supported by the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece.The mechanism's fragility precluded its removal from the museum, so the Hewlett-Packard research team and X-Tek systems had to bring their devices to Greece. HP built a
3-D surface imaging device, known as the "PTM Dome", that surrounds the object under examination. X-Tek systems developed especially for the Antikythera
Mechanism a 12 ton 450kV microfocus computerised tomographer. It was announced in Athens on 21 October 2005 that many new pieces of the Antikythera mechanism had been found. There are now more than 70 fragments. Most of the new pieces had been stabilized but were awaiting conservation. On 30 May 2006 it was announced [2] that the imaging system had enabled much more of the Greek inscription to be viewed and translated, from about 1,000 characters that were visible previously, to about 2,000 characters, representing about 95% of the non-lost text. The team's findings might shed new light concerning the function and purpose of the Antikythera mechanism.
1. Solla Price (1959: 60). The name has been confused in some recent publications with that of the politician Spyridon Stais.
* American Mathematical Society's The Antikythera Mechanism I and The Antikythera Mechanism II (Java Animation by Bill Casselman)
* Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki's Geartrain diagram
* Manos Roumeliotis's Antikythera Mechanism MOV files
* Rupert Russell's The Antikythera Mechanism
* Price, Derek J. de Solla, "An Ancient Greek Computer". Scientific American, June 1959. p. 60–67.
* Rice, Rob S., "The Antikythera Mechanism: Physical and Intellectual Salvage from the 1st Century BCE". USNA Eleventh Naval History Symposium.
* The Economist, "The Antikythera mechanism: The clockwork computer". September 19, 2002.
* Rice, Rob S., "Gears, Galleys, and Geography The Antikythera Mechanism's Implications". Text of the 1993 APA Abstract.
* Rosheim, Robot Evolution: The Development of Anthrobotics. Wiley-IEEE, 1994
* Lienhard, John H., Antikythera Mechanism. "The Engines of Our Ingenuity". KUHF-FM, Houston.
* Wright, M T., papers:
o “Simple X-ray Tomography and the Antikythera Mechanism”, PACT (Revue du groupe européen d'études pour les techniques physiques, chimiques, biologiques et mathématiques appliquées à l'archéologie or Journal of the European Study Group on Physical, Chemical, Biological and Mathematical Techniques Applied to Archaeology), vol.45 (1995), pp. 531 – 543.
o “Current Work on the Antikythera Mechanism”, Proc. Conf. ???a?a ???????? ?e???????a (Ancient Greek Technology), Thessaloniki, 4 – 7 September 1997, pp. 19 – 25.
o “A Planetarium Display for the Antikythera Mechanism”, Horological Journal, vol. 144 no. 5 (May 2002), pp. 169 – 173, and vol. 144 no. 6 (June 2002), p. 193.
o “Towards a New Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism”, ed. S.A. Paipetis, Proc. Conf. Extraordinary Machines and Structures in Antiquity (Ancient Olympia, August 2001), Peri Technon, Patras 2003, pp. 81 – 94.
o “In the Steps of the Master Mechanic”, Proc. Conf. ? ???a?a ????da ?a? ? S???????? ??sµ?? (Ancient Greece and the Modern World) (Ancient Olympia, July 2002), University of Patras 2003, pp. 86 – 97.
o “Epicyclic Gearing and the Antikythera Mechanism, part 1”, Antiquarian Horology, vol. 27 no. 3 (March 2003), pp. 270 – 279.
o “The Scholar, the Mechanic and the Antikythera Mechanism”, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 80 (March 2004), pp. 4 – 11.
o “The Antikythera Mechanism: a New Gearing Scheme”, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 85 (June 2005), pp. 2 – 7.
o “Il meccanismo di Anticitera: l’antica tradizione dei meccanismi ad ingranaggio” (The Antikythera Mechanism: evidence for an ancient tradition of the making of geared instruments), in: E. Lo Sardo (ed.), Eureka! Il genio degli antichi, Naples, July 2005 – January 2006), Electa Napoli 2005, pp. 241 – 244.
o “Epicyclic Gearing and the Antikythera Mechanism, part 2”, Antiquarian Horology, vol. 29 no. 1 (September 2005), pp. 51 – 63.
o “Counting Months and Years: the Upper Back Dial of the Antikythera Mechanism”, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 87 (December 2005), pp. 8 – 13.
o “The Antikythera Mechanism and the early history of the Moon Phase Display”, Antiquarian Horology, vol. 29 no. 3 (March 2006), pp. 319 – 329.
o “Understanding the Antikythera Mechanism” Proc. Conf. ???a?a ???????? ?e???????a (Ancient Greek Technology), Athens, October 2005; in preparation (Preprint).
o Mr Michael Wright, staff page at Imperial College, London
* Derek De Solla Price. Gears from the Greeks: The Antikythera Mechanism—A Calendar Computer from ca. 80 BCE. Science History Publications, New York, 1975, ISBN 0-87169-647-9; originally published in Transaction of The American Philosophical Society, New Series, Volume 64, Part 7, 1974.
* James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Ancient Inventions. Ballantine, 1995, ISBN 0-345-40102-6.
* Pastore, Giovanni, Antikythera E I Regoli Calcolatori, Rome, 2006, privately published [3]
* Russell, Rupert, "The Antikythera Mechanism" [4]
* Russo, Lucio, "The Forgotten Revolution : How Science Was Born in 300 BCE and Why it Had to Be Reborn". Springer , 2004, ISBN 3-540-20396-6.

 Unlocking an ancient computing device

by Jamie Beckett

It spent more than 2,000 years at the bottom of the sea before divers discovered the badly corroded bronze device near the Greek Island of Antikythera in 1900. Although scientists believed the geared mechanism to be some sort of mechanical calendar, its specific functions remained a mystery for more than a century.

Now, thanks in part to HP Labs' imaging technology, scientists have been able to create a virtual reconstruction of what is now known as the Antikythera Mechanism.

Considered to be the oldest known mechanical calculator, the device was used to track the movements of the moon and the sun (and possibly the planets around Earth) and to predict the dates of future eclipses. According to scientists, no earlier geared mechanism of any sort has ever been found.

"Nothing as complex is known until you get to the Middle Ages, when people started building clocks," says Tom Malzbender, one of two HP Labs researchers who helped with the discovery.

Malzbender and Dan Gelb got involved in the project a year ago, when members of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project invited them to Athens to apply their patented reflectance imaging techniques to the deciphering process.

They used the technology to view the front and rear surfaces of the more than 70 fragments that comprise the mechanism, including metal plates and gears, some of which are inscribed with faded Greek characters.

Reflectance imaging involves taking photos of an artifact from a fixed point and 50 different light sources arrayed in a hemisphere over the object, and then stitching those images together. This allowed archaeologists to change the angle of light or texture of the surface of the object to make faint markings appear more vivid.

The results of this work in collaboration with researchers from the U.K. and Greece, appear in the 29 November 2006 edition of the British science journal, Nature ("Decoding the ancient Greek astronomical calculator known as the Antikythera Mechanism"). An X-ray technique, called computer tomography, was also used to probe the depths of the device. The new research explains how the gears work and identifies twice as many markings on the device as previously detected.


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