Antikythera Mechanism Mysteries May Have Been Solved

Back in 1901, researchers discovered a device on a Roman shipwreck near Greece called the Antikythera Mechanism. Since then, the device has remained a mystery, and the 2000-year-old device is typically referred to as the world's oldest computer. Despite all the modern technology applied to studying the device, exactly how it works has remained a mystery.

However, a group of researchers from University College London (UCL) believes they have solved some mystery surrounding the device using 3D computer modeling. One of the biggest challenges in determining what exactly the device was used for is the fact that only about a third of the device survived. Scientists believe the hand-powered Antikythera Mechanism was used to predict eclipses and other astronomical events.

Past research solved what the back of the mechanism did, but the complicated gearing system at the front of the device was a mystery. UCL researchers re-created the entire front panel of the device and hope to build a full-scale replica using modern materials. The paper published by the research team says that the sun, moon, and planets are displayed in what they call a "tour de force of ancient Greek brilliance."

The model created by the team is the first that conforms to all the physical evidence and matches descriptions in scientific inscriptions that are engraved on the mechanism itself. The device is said to be an astronomical calculator and the world's first analog computer. It's constructed of bronze and uses dozens of gears. The back cover features a description of the cosmos display showing the motion of the five planets known at the time the device was built.

When the device was discovered, only 82 fragments survived, about one-third of the overall device. The team didn't mention when exactly they expect to have the modern recreation of the machine completed.