Archaeologists determine ‘start date’ of the Antikythera mechanism

It is now believed that the ancient device might have first started operating on December 22nd, 178 B.C.

Generally considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time, the remarkable 2,000-year-old mechanism is believed to be a form of early astronomical computer.

How the ancient Greeks developed the device, which is filled with a staggeringly intricate array of bronze gears, remains something of a mystery – especially given the time period it was built in.

Originally retrieved from a shipwreck by sponge divers, the mechanism was found alongside an array of other artefacts including coins, jewellery, pottery and statue fragments.

Since its discovery, the device has been the subject if intense study and debate with archaeologists struggling to piece together its function and origins.

Now a new study has put forward the possibility that the device first became operational on December 22nd, 178 B.C.

The researchers have suggested that a solar eclipse on that exact day, coupled with the winter solstice the following day – both important events at the time – would have made it the ideal candidate for a “characteristic, important and easily detected” start date.

While this conclusion is certainly intriguing, other experts have weighed in on the debate by playing down the likelihood that this particular date is accurate.

For example, if the specific start date was correct, other seasons and dates displayed on the device would be inaccurate (such as the grape ripening season being in the middle of February.)

As things stand, it’s likely that the mysteries of the mechanism will endure for some time to come.

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