A group of scientists came close to understanding the Antikythera Mechanism – one of the greatest technological mysteries of the ancient world. Using X-rays, the specialists were able to create a complete 3D model of the mechanism.
This device is more than 2000 years old, and in the hands of scientists it has been for more than a century, but still no one can unravel all the secrets of the mechanism.
The Antikythera mechanism was found in 1901 on a sunken ship in the Aegean Sea, which was dated to the 1st century BC. On board were various treasures and art objects, which were probably intended for the Julius Caesar parade in Rome.
Among the various statues, pots and jewelry, scientists discovered strange pieces of rusty bronze, one of which protruded from the cogwheels. The found mechanism was not similar to any previously discovered object of the ancient world. Long-term research has led scientists to believe that the Antikythera Mechanism is an analog computer powered by the rotation of a wheel to perform a wide range of astronomical calculations.
The study of the device all this time was difficult, since it could not be assembled due to damage, only 30% of the mechanism could be called “preserved”. As part of the new work, scientists carefully measured and examined all parts of the device using X-rays, gamma rays and 3D X-ray tomography to assemble a complete model of the mechanism.
“Actually putting together what it [the mechanism] is made of is a very complex 3D puzzle. It is now divided into 82 pieces, and you have to grab onto their tiny clues to understand how it was put together and how this machine worked. And the X-rays gave us a lot of additional information, ”says Tony Frith, professor at University College London.
Scientists discovered that originally one of the largest fragments of the movement was inside a bronze box with dials on the front and back. In addition, there were Greek inscriptions on the box, which were a kind of instruction for the operation and interpretation of the results. The back panel calculated the phases of the moon, its orbit, eclipses and some calendar features. The inscriptions indicated that the mechanism could also predict the motion of the Sun and the five known planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
In addition, 3D X-rays of the fragments indicated a number of bearings, bearings, blocks, and a 63-tooth gear and plate. The footage of what remains of the front panel showed the numbers 462 and 442, which represent the cycles of trajectories that Venus and Saturn follow across the sky.