A few days before Easter Sunday in 1900, Greek sponge divers off the small island of Antikythera discovered the remains of an ancient ship filled with bronze and marble statues and assorted artifacts later dated between 85 and 50 B.C.
Among the finds was a small
formless lump of corroded bronze and rotted wood, which was sent along
with the other artifacts to the National Museum in Athens for further study.
Soon, as the wood
fragments dried and shrank from exposure to air, the lump split open revealing inside the outlines of a series of gear wheels like a modern clock.
In 1958 Dr. Derek J. de Solla Price successfully reconstructed the machine's appearance and use. The gearing system calculated the annual movements of the sun and moon. The arrangement shows that the gears could be moved forward and backward with ease at any speed. The device was thus not a clock but more like a calculator that could show the positions of the heavens past, present and future.
It is highly possible that
the device may have origins ages long before the Greeks, and in a land
far removed, now unknown.
The complex assemblage of gears (including epicyclic/differential systems), dials, and inscriptions for operating instructions and construction/maintenance-- strongly resembling the quality of an 18th century european clock-- will come to be called the "Antikythera mechanism" by discoverers almost 2000 years later.
Based on other objects found in the wreck, the ship may have been traveling from the isles of Rhodes and Cos towards Rome when disaster struck. The device showed signs of use and occasional repairs/maintenance.
_An Ancient Greek Computer_
by Derek J. de Solla Price From June 1959
Scientific American p.60-7, URL: http://www.giant.net.au/users/rupert/kythear/kythera3.htm ]
_Gears from the Ancient Greeks_,
E. Christopher Zeeman, K.B., F.R.S. UT San
Antonio, February 20, 1998 / Trinity University, February 23, 1998]