The mechanism is the oldest known complex scientific calculator. It contains many gears and is sometimes called the first known analog computer,although the quality of its manufacture suggests that it may have had a number of undiscovered predecessors during the Hellenistic Period. It appears to be constructed upon theories of astronomy and mathematics developed by Greek astronomers. It is estimated to have been made around 100 BC. In 1974, Yale University Professor Derek de Solla Price concluded from gear settings and inscriptions on the mechanism's faces that the mechanism was made about 87 BC and was lost only a few years later.
It is believed to be made of a low-tin bronze alloy (95% copper, 5% tin), but the device's advanced state of corrosion has made it impossible to perform an accurate compositional analysis.
All of the mechanism's instructions are written in Koine Greek, and the consensus among scholars is that the mechanism was made in the Greek-speaking world. One hypothesis is that the device was constructed at an academy founded by the Stoic philosopher Posidonius on the Greek island of Rhodes, which at the time was known as a center of astronomy and mechanical engineering; this hypothesis further suggests that the mechanism may have been designed by the astronomer Hipparchus, since it contains a lunar mechanism which uses Hipparchus's theory for the motion of the Moon. However, recent findings of The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project suggest that the concept for the mechanism originated in the colonies of Corinth, which might imply a connection with Archimedes.
It was discovered in a shipwreck off Point Glyphadia on the Greek island of Antikythera. The wreck had been found in October 1900 and divers had retrieved numerous artifacts, most of them works of art, which had been transferred to the National Museum of Archaeology for storage. On 17 May 1902, archaeologist Valerios Stais was examining the finds and noticed that one of the pieces of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Stais initially believed it was an astronomical clock, but most scholars considered the device an anachronism, too complex to have been constructed during the same period as the other pieces that had been discovered. Investigations into the object were soon dropped until English physicist Derek J. de Solla Price became interested in it in 1951.
It is not known how it came to be on the cargo ship, but it has been suggested that it was being taken to Rome, together with other treasure looted from the island, to support a triumphal parade being staged by Julius Caesar.
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