Object: The Antikythera mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism, used in ancient Greece to predict the movements of celestial bodies. Photo: Wikipedia

The Antikythera mechanism is considered the oldest known machine for accurately predicting the future based on scientific observations and mathematical calculations — in this case, the positions of the stars, the orbit of the moon, the four-year cycle of the Olympic Games, and astrological features that were important to the Greeks.

Computer-generated reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism’s display face. Image: Wikipedia

Discovered in an ancient shipwreck off the coast of Greece in 1902, the mechanism dates to approximately 100 BCE. A complex set of 37 gears powered the mechanism, like a clockwork, and a display face indicated when future events would occur (see the computer model reconstruction).  The knowledge of science and technology that are reflected in the Antikythera mechanism were lost to the Western world for well over a thousand years, only reappearing again in Europe during the 14th Century.

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