Return to Antikythera

The Antikythera shipwreck — source of the famous ancient clockwork Antikythera Mechanism — has remained shockingly unexplored in the 100 years or so that we've known about it. In fact, other than a visit by Jacques Cousteau in 1970s, there hadn't been any official, scientific excavations until last year. Turns out, there's a lot of stuff left to find at the site, from a ship's anchor and storage jars to a collection of bronze fragments — which could either turn out to be something mundane, like nails from the boat, or more clues to the Mechanism. According to The Guardian's Jo Marchant, "little bronze fragments" describes what the gears of the Antikythera Mechanism looked like before they were detached from rock and cleaned of rust.



  1. So glad you didn’t mention aliens. The people behind Ancient Aliens seem to think that people in ancient times lacked the inventiveness to create anything but mud huts and the like. The Antikythera mechanism is just one of many indications that humans back then had the same intellectual capacity (if not more) than we do now.

    1.  Indeed.

      In the Iliad, in Book 18, Achilles’s mother, Thetis, goes to the workshop of the smith-god, Hephaestus. The poem describes wheeled carts that moved around on their own to where they were needed, and Hephaestus’s assistants, who looked like women made out of gilded metal. I take the latter as evidence of just how long the idea of robotics has been around. It’s the self-propelled carts, though, that really astonish me: it seemed to me that is a much greater leap of the imagination in a world that, I assumed, had no machinery more complex than block and tackle.

      But, if Michael Wright’s reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism is accurate, than perhaps Homer saw far more sophisticated machinery than I had believed.

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