Reverse Engineering the Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in 1901 in an ancient Greek Mediterranean shipwreck dating from around 70–60 B.C. From the start, it was clear this was something exceptional. Although heavily corroded, the mechanism could be seen to contain what were clearly gears made with precision comparable to clockwork of the modern era. Over the decades, advances in technology including 3D X-rays, computed tomography scans, and computer modeling has allowed teasing ever more information from the remains, revealing it to be a sophisticated mechanical analogue computer with a model of lunar and planetary motion allowing prediction of celestial events including eclipses. Here is a proposed reverse engineering of the gear trains in the device.


The mechanism continues to slowly yield its secrets to ongoing investigations. It is as if a masterpiece of 17th century clockwork somehow found its way into ancient Greece. How would history have changed had the Greeks applied such insight and skill in building precision machinery to the simpler problem of mechanising arithmetic calculation? Imagine a Græco-Roman Analytical Engine automating the administration of the Roman Empire.


They should put it on a string and hang it around the neck of Venus de Milo in Paris, another obvious fake.

Are you seriously claiming the Antikythera mechanism is a fake? There is a well-documented chain of custody from its discovery in 1901 to the present day. If some malefactor had manufactured the device, artificially “antiqued” it to mimic something which had lain on the sea bottom for two millennia, then deposited it among remains of a previously unknown Greek shipwreck which would eventually be stumbled upon by Greek divers seeking grounds to harvest sponges, what is the probability that analyses performed over more than 120 years using techniques nobody imagined when the device was discovered, would not have found evidence of its being fraudulent?

What conceivably could have motivated somebody to create such a fake and deposit it in a wreck off the coast of an obscure Greek island? Why have none of the numerous researchers from a wide variety of institutions who have studied the device not found discrepancies indicating its being fraudulent and published such evidence, which would certainly bring great renown, as occurred after the revelation of the Piltdown Man hoax?


I’m sorry, I do not have the time presently to answer beyond stating I stand by my comment. You deserve a full answer and it would be a pleasure to write it, but I’m already out of my internet time allocation and “the nurse is shaking the pills bottle at me”.

John, you don’t know who I am and you don’t know what I know. I promise with all the good will due: I will return and write a full reply. Thanks for your patience.

None due. The reliabiliity of your contributions throughout this site (and elsewhere, if ever correlated) will be judged by your “obvious fake” assertion. Because it is no more than an assertion without evidence, set against much. Your essay had best deliver a truckload of evidence to back up any further assertions.

{ I wasn’t going to feed the troll… }


I’m allowed to state what is obvious to me, without qualifying that it may not be obvious to others. As for the troll label, wait for the essay, do not judge so quickly. When it comes to fakery of historical artifacts, the unravelling of the fake is no easy task and even less easy to communicate. It takes effort, skill and time, and even then, one must remember the old saying that it is easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled. But thank you for your reply nevertheless, I enjoy all challenges. Please be patient.

Indeed, the proprietor of this site is remarkably tolerant.

Bwah, ha, ha!

No, you don’t get to throw out risable claims without being judged for them. If you deliver a convincing essay, such judgements may be altered. Then, not before.


I remember looking into this a few years ago when news came out of a reconstruction. This video goes through some of the salient points regarding the proposed reconstruction. It also starts with a fun reenactment of the 1901 find in the shipwreck.

There is a 12 episode video series on youtube outlining how to reproduce the proposed reconstruction of the mechanism

Wikipedia has a couple of good sections discussing other examples of either known or presumed similarly complex mechanisms. There is a lot we don’t know regarding the mechanical “computer” design capabilities of the ancient Greek and Eastern civilizations.

Would an alternate history of early scaled adoption of such technologies for administrative use prevented the Roman Empire from falling apart? I honestly have no idea, but it sure makes for fun speculation.


Another argument is by examining the relevant predecessor technologies:


A Lego implementation sheds more light on the modular structure involved in the mechanism:

What I find fascinating about the mechanism is the ability of ancient Greeks to come up with the design and physical realization of the device. It’s a way of thinking that is very much different from how we approach designing most modern devices. Even sketching this on “paper” 2000 years ago would be completely foreign to any modern human.


Even if we understand how they built 19th century buildings, it’s hard to do it today because those supply chains, those skills are no longer present in the economy. One can’t get good hardwood anymore, for example. Even those forests no longer exist, by now they’ve planted the fast-growth trees there versus letting forests take care of themselves - turning a natural ecosystem into a plantation.

The Asian strategy of undercutting western manufacturing have resulted in long-term destruction of many of the prerequisites for manufacturing.

With what’s happening to our institutions and educational systems, the damage is going to be even more far reaching.


I noticed some in-depth essays from you recently and thought “isn’t that the guy…?” And sure enough, same handle.

Surely you now have time for the promised essay on the Antikythera mechanism? Or are you hoping the rest of us would forget the poor start to your reputation here?


This will be done by Christmas, but I can’t say when as there’s something I have to complete first. I post on other subjects in the meantime as nothing else is waiting. Patience please!

Sounds like the tactics of a troll with an assignment to spread some FUD. And so shall you be considered in the meantime.