A missing piece of the 2,200-year-old Antikythera Mechanism, which has been called the world’s oldest analog computer, is believed to have been found on the Aegean seabed. This primitive computer was invented to help ancient Greeks calculate different astronomical positions, and somehow has managed to survive at sea despite the large number of looters who have appeared on the scene.
As the Daily Beast reports, the Antikythera Mechanism first disappeared 2,200 years ago, after it sunk with the ship that was carrying it near the island of Antikythera. It was then lost to history until 1901, when sponge divers discovered an oddly-shaped green mass in the seabed.
Curious to learn more about their discovery, the sponge divers carried their strange green lump back up to the surface with them. They then gave it over to archaeologist Valerios Stais, who holds residence at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, to examine.
Over the course of decades since the discovery of this ancient computer, the site where the Antikythera Mechanism was first discovered has been explored thoroughly, being looted extensively. But even worse was to come in 1976, when Jean-Jacques Cousteau accidentally sent the ship’s hull to oblivion, very nearly destroying it all.
Scientists now know that this Antikythera Mechanism is able to perform basic mathematical functions — as well as accurately track the movements of many celestial bodies like the sun, moon, planets and constellations. This ancient computer is even able to calculate the timing of equinoxes and eclipses.
A major discoveryhttps://t.co/sJEcl15P9m
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) November 13, 2018
After Cousteau’s disastrous visit, this part of the Aegean was fairly quiet until 2012, when underwater archaeologists returned once again to examine the site of the ancient wreckage. This was a profoundly rewarding mission, as the archaeologists managed to find bronze and marble statues, coins, a sarcophagus lid, and even furniture on the Aegean seabed.
However, last year was the magnum opus of the operation. Archaeologists discovered the corroded 8 centimeter disk, a disk which was later found to be part of the 2,200-year-old Antikythera Mechanism. While the fact that this is the world’s oldest analog computer is profound in and of itself, Sarah Bond — an associated professor of Classics at the University of Iowa — explained that it also helps us to better understand the process of archaeological work.
“The Antikythera Mechanism is an important object in the historical record of ancient technology, but is also a prism for tracking the development of archaeology as a professional field. It reveals the advanced astrological instruments created and used by ancient engineers, but the protracted nature of the undersea dig reveals archaeological advances in scanning, 3D modelling, and many other sophisticated approaches in reconstructing and analyzing the computer.”
With the new discovery on the Aegean seabed, archaeologists will be continuing with their examination of what is believed to be another missing piece of the ancient artifact.