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Antikythera mechanism, world's oldest computer, followed Greek lunar

calendar


The Antikythera mechanism — an ancient shoebox-sized device that was used to track the motions of the sun, moon and planets — followed the Greek lunar calendar, not the solar one used by the Egyptians, as was previously thought, new research reveals.

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One piece of the mechanism, known as the "calendar ring," was used to track the days of the year, with one hole per day. While the ring has been known about for some time, it’s only partially preserved, so it's unclear how many days it was meant to track.

In 2020, a team led by independent researcher Chris Budiselic used new X-ray images of the device, combined with measurements and mathematical analysis, to determine that the mechanism likely didn't cover a full solar calendar year but rather 354 days, as would be used in a lunar calendar.

https://www.livescience.com/archaeo...oldest-computer-followed-greek-lunar-calendar

maximus otter
 
The Antikythera Mechanism and the Public Face of Greek Science.
Overview:
The remnants of the Hellenistic device known as the Antikythera Mechanism were salvaged in 1900-1901 from the site of a shipwreck dated to approximately 70-50 BC, near the coast of the island of Antikythera.1 They lay unnoticed in the National Archeological Museum in Athens among miscellaneous bronze fragments of statuary recovered from the wreck site until May 1902, when Spyridon Stais, the former Minister of Education who had commissioned the salvage operations on the part of the Greek government, visited the museum and chanced to observe fragments of corroded metal bearing gears and inscribed texts on some of their surfaces. Since 1902 there have been three periods of active research on the Mechanism: 1902-1910 (many archeologists and other scholars), late 1920s-early 1930s (Ioannis Theofanidis), and 1953-present (Derek de Solla Price, Allan Bromley, M. T. Wright, the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, and others).​
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Source: Jones, Alexander. “The Antikythera Mechanism and the Public Face of Greek Science.” (2012).
 

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  • Jones, Alexander. “The Antikythera Mechanism and the Public Face of Greek Science.” (2012)..pdf
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Antikythera Mechanism and the Ancient World
Overview:

The oscillations with the planetary frequencies are especially noticeable in the temperature trend and also in concentrations of a number of impurity gases (see Discussion in [1, 2]). Currently, it is possible to say that there is no physical mechanism that could explain these midfrequency oscillations in atmospheric processes. This compels us to turn to Pythagorean- Plato cosmology. The main goal of this part of the paper is to answer the questions: for what purposes the Antikytheramechanism has been created and whether the ancient philosophers claimed that there is a relationship between the position of the planets in the solar system and volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and climate extremes.

Source: Safronov, A.N. (2016) Antikythera Mechanism and the Ancient World. Journal of Archaeology, 2016
 

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  • Safronov, A.N. (2016) Antikythera Mechanism and the Ancient World. Journal of Archaeology, 201...pdf
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Ancient machine tools for the construction of the Antikythera Mechanism parts.
Abstract:

The present work deals with the study, design, original reconstruction and use of the bow drill of the late archaic period (ca 490 BC), as depicted in two different red figure vases and the vertical lathe depicted on an engraved wall painting of the Petosiris tomb of the Ptolemaic era (300 BC). After the reconstruction of the three ancient tools, during the implementation of the FRAMe Project, their use was thoroughly studied, from which useful conclusions were drawn about the material processing in antiquity, as well as the details of the construction of the Antikythera Mechanism components. Following the new findings detected from the authors’ study of the X-Ray Computed Tomographies from Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, these ancient machine tools can be considered as the progenitors of the Hellenistic period machine tools, which were used for the construction of the mechanical components of the Mechanism.​
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Source: Voulgaris, Aristeidis et al. “Ancient machine tools for the construction of the Antikythera Mechanism parts.” Digit. Appl. Archaeol. Cult. Heritage 13 (2019): 00092.
 

Attachments

  • Voulgaris, A., Mouratidis, C., & Vossinakis, A. (2019). Ancient machine tools for the construc...pdf
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Phases in the Unraveling of the Secrets of the Gear System of the Antikythera Mechanism.
Abstract:

In November 2006 Tony Freeth et al. published a new reconstruction of the gear system of the Antikythera mechanism in the journal Nature. Important earlier reconstructions had been published by Derek de Solla Price in 1974 and Michael Wright in 2005. In this paper I will discuss the three reconstructions. Price did important work, but his reconstruction turned out to be seriously flawed, as Wright has shown in considerable detail. Wright’s work was a great advance on De Solla Price’s and resulted in a largely correct reconstruction of the topography of the wheelwork. He had identified a pin and slot mechanism that could model the anomaly of the Moon and he had discovered that the back dials consisted of spirals. Wright had got hold of most of the pieces of the puzzle, but some of the pieces didn’t fall into place. Freeth et al. gave the final solution. In the National Archeological Museum in Athens they discovered the so-called Fragment F of the mechanism. It yielded data that led to the discovery of the way in which the central wheelwork of the mechanism had functioned. I will argue that, while Wright was close to the solution, the 2006 paper in Nature represents a great step forward that was not taken easily. The creation of a team of 17 experts, engaging support from high-tech companies, can be considered an important change in research methodology. Wright worked alone; in Freeth’s team different kinds of expertise are represented by different individuals. The new approach has been very fertile: in July 2008 a second paper by Freeth and three others appeared in Nature.

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Source: Koetsier, T. (2009). Phases in the Unraveling of the Secrets of the Gear System of the Antikythera Mechanism. In: Yan, HS., Ceccarelli, M. (eds) International Symposium on History of Machines and Mechanisms. Springer, Dordrecht.
 

Attachments

  • Koetsier, T. (2009). Phases in the Unraveling of the Secrets of the Gear System of the Antikyt...pdf
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Notes on the Antikythera Mechanism.
Overview:

In his lengthy paper “Gears from the Greeks: the Antikythera Mechanism - A Calender Computer from ca. 80 BC” Derek De Solla Price has given a detailed description of this earliest known mathematical oearwork. Price demonstrates that the Greeks were capable of fab- ?ri cating gearwork of a complexity not previously known before the great astronomical clocks of the middle ages. Further, the gearwork is not just impressive for its quantity but also for the remarkable sophistication of the differential mechanism it incorporates. An important fruit of Price’s many years of careful scholarship is a proposed reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism in his Figure 33 (shown in Figure 1 of this paper) and described at length elsewhere in his paper. The work described in this present paper was motivated by disquiet felt over some aspects of Price’s reconstruction.
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Source: Bromley, A. G. (1986). Notes on the Antikythera Mechanism. Centaurus, 29(1), 5–27
 

Attachments

  • Bromley, A. G. (1986). Notes on the Antikythera Mechanism. Centaurus, 29(1), 5–27.pdf
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The Wiki entry for Minoan Moulds of Palaikastro includes this schist carving from around 1790 BC, described as casting mould with rectangular spokes and a serrated edge/gears and female figure.

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I still feel that the resemblance to some of the gears of the Antikythera mechanism is remarkable. The larger cogged wheel in the mould has a very similar cruciform structure to the AM's central "Calendar Wheel" and the smaller wheel to the left of the female figure has 30 marks around its perimeter, which corresponds to the Minoan standardised month. So, this would appear to have calendrical significance, just like the AM. As the carving above was a mould, it would have produced bronze artifacts - a couple of geared disks and a figurine in relief. The former probably of astronomical/calendrical significance and the latter likely being ornamentation, rather like the bull symbol found near the AM.
Given the close proximity of the Minoan centres in Crete and Antikythera, it seems very plausible to me that these Minoan moulds represent an earlier blueprint or precursor to the Antikythera Mechanism.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_Moulds_of_Palaikastro
 
Last edited:
The Wiki entry for Minoan Moulds of Palaikastro includes this schist carving from around 1790 BC, described as casting mould with rectangular spokes and a serrated edge/gears and female figure.

View attachment 79062

I still feel that the resemblance to the some of the gears of the Antikythera mechanism is remarkable. The larger cogged wheel in the mould has a very similar cruciform structure to the AM's central "Calendar Wheel" and the smaller wheel to the left of the female figure has 30 marks around its perimeter, which corresponds to the Minoan standardised month. So, this would appear to have calendrical significance, just like the AM. As the carving above was a mould, it would have produced bronze artifacts - a couple of geared disks and a figurine in relief. The former probably of astronomical/calendrical significance and the latter likely being ornamentation, rather like the bull symbol found near the AM.
Given the close proximity of the Minoan centres in Crete and Antikythera, it seems very plausible to me that these Minoan moulds represent an earlier blueprint or precursor to the Antikythera Mechanism.

View attachment 79063View attachment 79064

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_Moulds_of_Palaikastro
I think part of this similarity might be as simple as that's what "period-correct" machinery looked like. the methods used to forge machinery dictate shapes.
 
I think part of this similarity might be as simple as that's what "period-correct" machinery looked like. the methods used to forge machinery dictate shapes.

Of course.
But given the proximity of the locations and the apparent similarity of design, it's nice to speculate that, somewhere out there, buried beneath some Minoan ruins or in an as yet undiscovered ancient shipwreck off the coast of Crete, there may be a heavily corroded collection of bronze gears with a broadly similar function to the Antikythera Mechanism, but predating it by at least a millennium.
 
The Antikythera Mechanism: A Computer Science Perspective
Abstract:

Two thousand years separate us from an ancient Greek computing device known as the Antikythera mechanism. Here I explain the mechanism’s operation based on its reconstruction in Squeak Etoys, a multimedia authoring environment primarily designed to help high school students learn scientific and engineering concepts.1,2 The reconstruction relies on the recent findings that an international cross-disciplinary team of scientists obtained through surface imaging and high-resolution x-ray tomography. My work aims to present the functioning of this remarkable device using working code, the language of our community. The complete image of this implementation is available online as open source software running on the Etoys environment (www.dmst. aueb.gr/dds/sw/ameso). I encourage readers to download an Etoys image and run the software on it, as they step through the descriptions in this article.​
https://adome.gr/adome_articles/The Antikuthera Mechanism-A Computer Science Perpsective -Diomidis Spinelis.pdf
Source: D. Spinellis, "The Antikythera Mechanism: A Computer Science Perspective," in Computer, vol. 41, no. 5, pp. 22-27, May 2008
 
Coupling Mechanics of Antikythera Gearwheels.
Abstract:

This paper discusses the gear coupling mechanics of the ancient Antikythera mechanism, among whose distinctive characteristics was the triangular shaping of the teeth. The engagement of the tooth pairs is analyzed in detail, estimating the temporal variation of the speed ratio due to the back and forth shifting of the relative instant center. The admissibility of the theoretical contact points is carefully checked, and the magnitude of the successive tooth collisions is calculated together with the energy losses arising from the particular nature of the coupling. Some interesting results are that only one tooth pair turns out to be active at each time instant and the real path may belong only to the approach or to the recess region entirely, or may split into separate subphases, in approach and in recess, or may even straddle both regions. The occurrence of each of these conditions depends on the average speed ratio (tooth ratio) and the assigned clearance between the wheels. It is also found that the speed oscillation is roughly contained in a 610% range and the efficiency may reach rather high values, despite the presumable crude finishing of the ancient gearwheels due to the rather rudimentary technology used in the construction of the tooth profiles.​
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Source: Sorge, F. (2012). Coupling Mechanics of Antikythera Gearwheels. Journal of Mechanical Design, 134(6), 061007.
 

Attachments

  • Sorge, F. (2012). Coupling Mechanics of Antikythera Gearwheels. Journal of Mechanical Design, ...pdf
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