Google Doodle celebrates Ancient Greek artefact 'Antikythera Mechanism'


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Antikythera Mechanism, the Ancient Greek artefact often hailed as the 'world's first computer' is today being celebrated with a Google Doodle.

On this day, May 17 in 1902, Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais discovered an intriguing piece of bronze among treasure recovered from a Roman shipwreck.

It became known as the Antikythera Mechanism and has continued to fascinate scientists worldwide ever since.

It dates back to 60BC and is said to most likely have been used by ancient Greeks to track solar and lunar eclipses using a complex system of bronze gears.

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While sifting through artefacts recovered two years earlier from a Roman shipwreck, the Greek archaeologist noticed an intriguing lump of bronze among the statues, jewellery and coins found by Greek sponge divers. What at first appeared to be a wheel turned out to be what is now widely referred to as the first known analogue computer.

The device has a complex gearwheel system of 30 intricate bronze gear wheels used to run a system that displayed the date, positions of the sun and moon, lunar phases, a 19-year calendar and a 223-month eclipse prediction dial. This makes it an analogue computer of great complexity. No other machine of known existence shows a similarity in advanced engineering for at least another 1,000 years.

It was believed that it is an ancient astronomy calculator that shows the four-year cycle of the early Greek competitions that inspired today's Olympic Games. Inscriptions on the device list names linked to the Olympiad cycle of games.

To highlight Stais' discovery, 115 years later Google has dedicated its doodle to the Antikythera Mechanism, a complex clockwork believed to have been designed and constructed by Greek scientists around 87 BC, or even earlier.

As Google points out, the doodle illustrates how a rusty remnant can open up a sky full of knowledge and inspiration.

The remaining fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism are currently held at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.