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Antikythera Mechanism : New-ish findings

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Michael Gilligan27/02/2021 22:11:16
17667 forum posts
811 photos

The Horological Journal arrived in today’s post, and includes an excellent article [part 1 of 2] about the Antikythera Mechanism.

The reason for mentioning it here is that both parts are already available [free PDF download] on the BHI website, as a link from this blog post: **LINK**


David Noble27/02/2021 23:50:01
252 forum posts
11 photos

Thank you Michael,

Fascinating. I've been amazed by the Antikythera Mechanism for a long time.


Brian H28/02/2021 08:27:39
2098 forum posts
113 photos

Thanks for that Michael, absolutely fascinating.


Journeyman28/02/2021 09:09:36
943 forum posts
173 photos

If you fancy making one and have a 3D printer Thingiverse has one or two:-

Working Version - looks nothing like the original but has tried to make a working mechanism.

Replica - doesn't work but can be painted up as a decorative piece.


Matt Harrington28/02/2021 09:12:06
171 forum posts
7 photos

Michael, my BHI copy awaits my morning coffee. I find the Antikythera Mechanism fascinating.


SillyOldDuffer28/02/2021 09:46:26
7042 forum posts
1549 photos

Thanks Michael, breakfast this morning was pure pleasure.

The article raises so many questions:

  • who did the maths, linking astronomy to gear ratios and the other mechanical design features?
  • where was it made and by who? Was it made by a lone genius or by a vanished trade. If a trade , why has only one example survived, and that from a shipwreck?
  • who was the customer, and how much did he pay for it?

Considerable metal working skills were deployed by whoever made it. Apart from the hand made gears, the Article says the holes are positioned accurate to 0.13mm. How was it done? I'd be hard-put to make anything remotely like the Antikythera Mechanism today, despite easy access to tools, materials, libraries and the internet. I'm always impressed by the superb builds shared on this forum, but this was made 2000 years ago. No twist drills then!

A quote from the blog sums up why I enjoy Model Engineering: 'I love the precision of those who work with metal. Crafting, bending and cutting until the correct shape, just so, is finally revealed.' Just don't look in my rejects bin!


Matt Harrington28/02/2021 09:53:59
171 forum posts
7 photos

Dave, If you have a moment, have a look at Clickspring - Youtube project - he goes into the making of tools etc etc.

All fascinating stuff.


PS, My rejects bin is not for general viewing!

John Haine28/02/2021 10:00:07
3784 forum posts
220 photos

My favourite story about the Antikythera is this one, a letter from Richard Feynman to his family from Athens where he was a guest at a conference. Quite a few years back I also attended a talk by Michael Wright, then curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum, who was one of the first people to examine its inside structure using a home made x-ray tomograph, at the SMEE in London - quite fascinating! Good article about him in Wikipedia.

ega28/02/2021 11:30:00
2057 forum posts
167 photos

"Like button" to MichaelG's OP!

I admit my head began to hurt (though in a nice way) part-way through the first part.

I recall that a working model of the mechanism has been attempted but suppose that the present issue was not resolved by it.

As to the Feynman letter, does anyone know in which museum he found the mechanism? He calls it the "archeological" but I think there is more than one candidate for this in Athens.

Hopper28/02/2021 11:58:58
5404 forum posts
131 photos

Old mate Clickspring is busy making a working replica, using tools and methods the originals could have used in many places. His YouTube channel has a slew of videos on it. As usual, his workmanship is awe inspiring.

Such as this primitive but effective drilling machine 

Ooops. Sorry Matt I missed your post. Oh well, awesome enough to point to twice!

Edited By Hopper on 28/02/2021 12:05:13

Edited By Hopper on 28/02/2021 12:07:07

Alan Wood 428/02/2021 13:16:46
190 forum posts
11 photos

If I am not mistaken Chris at Clickspring was a co-author. There is a reference in the Acknowledgements by CB to his Patreon patrons.

Alan Johnson 728/02/2021 14:25:13
102 forum posts
16 photos

I am not sure if these two YouTube articles have been mentioned here before. If they have not, then they are worth watching.

Session 1:

Session 2:

One thing that struck me with the Antikythera Mechanism is that there appears to be no wear! This leads me to hypothesise that the device was a "new" one and it had been picked up from wherever for delivery to the new owner. It was not some old relic - like say, some of the bronze and marble statues on the ship.

The ship had accommodation for wealthy passengers. It was not just a "cargo ship," so it is not unreasonable that some wealthy learned person went to see the "manufacturer" and collected a new one and was taking it home, and was going to impress his learned friends with it!

Tim Stevens28/02/2021 15:29:28
1411 forum posts

My guess is that the ship captain was himself the new owner, and had promised his pennyless mate to send a heap of shekels / denarii / pieces of 8 / etc as soon as he got back home. So, somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranean, an inventor sits, with tears in his eyes and nothing in his wallet, waiting, so patiently, as he looks towards Greece ...

Cheers, Tim

Nick Clarke 328/02/2021 16:38:25
1157 forum posts
48 photos

Well that has cost me an afternoon watching all of the videos and reading the paper!

I had seen the TV documentary from a few years ago before, so to see a replica under construction by a superb craftsman was well worth it.

Geoff G01/03/2021 15:16:11
23 forum posts
3 photos

Gents, a search for "dave goodchild antikythera" will bring up info on the machine (working) that my son made . . . . out of wood, proving that metal is not the only material for precision mechanisms. See particularly the Youtube offerings. All of the components were cut on a jig saw, inluding the countless gear teeth and even the bevel gears.

A lot more clever than his proud dad!


Journeyman01/03/2021 15:48:35
943 forum posts
173 photos

Geoff G. That's a superb bit of work. Like the YouTube video so I've added it below for other to enjoy without searching.


Geoff G01/03/2021 17:25:40
23 forum posts
3 photos

Thank you for the link, John. All very technical, this internet stuff - it's not only my son who is cleverer than me!


Neil Wyatt02/03/2021 12:03:51
18558 forum posts
723 photos
78 articles

This device is a gift that keeps giving.

It's remarkable how much 'machinery' was around in those times, and interesting to speculate what we don't know about.

Neil Wyatt02/03/2021 12:05:46
18558 forum posts
723 photos
78 articles
Posted by Geoff G on 01/03/2021 15:16:11:

Gents, a search for "dave goodchild antikythera" will bring up info on the machine (working) that my son made . . . . out of wood, proving that metal is not the only material for precision mechanisms. See particularly the Youtube offerings. All of the components were cut on a jig saw, inluding the countless gear teeth and even the bevel gears.

A lot more clever than his proud dad!


That is outstanding.

A good candidate for 3D printing, I wonder? Less elegant but a way to eplore the device.


John Haine02/03/2021 12:26:25
3784 forum posts
220 photos

On the wear question, as I understand it this wasn't a clock but really a calendar or calculator, so it wouldn't have been running all the time with load on the pivots like a clock, but possibly just wound on a day every day. And of course it was probably brand new!

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