More than 2,200 years after a ship sank in the waters of the Aegean Sea carrying a mysterious artifact dubbed after its discovery as the Antikythera Mechanism.
Found by archaeologist Valerios Stais, on 17 May 1902, the knowledge of this technology was lost at some point in antiquity, and similar technological artifacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear anywhere on Earth again until the development of mechanical astronomical clocks in Europe in the fourteenth century.
Built by an unknown engineer, for years experts tried understanding how such a sophisticated device could even exist, and what its use was, more than 2,200 years ago.
Years after studying it carefully, experts concluded that the device, a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears, was, in fact, an ancient analog computer, used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendar and astrological purposes decades in advance.
The construction of the Antikythera Mechanism relied on various astronomical and mathematical theories developed by Greek astronomers, and it is estimated to have been created sometime around the late second century BC.
Now, years after not having found any new parts belonging to the mechanism, a news article appeared on the Israeli publication Haaretz, claiming that a group of archaeologists has found a piece that was missing from the famous Antikythera Mechanism.
The article suggests underwater archaeologists recovered a strange cog, carrying a symbol of a bull, specifically a Taurus, and indicating that the ancient machine may be more than just a complex analog computer, built thousands of years ago.
The bronze disk, being one of the few objects recovered from the seabed and probably part of the mechanism seemed promising and exciting.
It has been x-rayed and scanned.
The disk contains four protrusions, large ‘cog’-like teeth spaced at regular intervals, as explained by news.co.au.
In addition to the Taurus symbol, experts wonder whether the bull may be symbolizing the constellation.
As explained by experts, if the newly found dis really did belong to the Antikythera Mechanism it would confirm earlier theories that it was used to predict the positions of stars and constellations.
However, this may not be the case, and the disk may not even belong to the mechanism itself, despite all the excitement on the internet.
In fact, to understand more about the mystery disc we take a look at an article written by Gizmodo in 2017:
“At first glance, the archaeologists thought it might be related to the Antikythera Mechanism, specifically a missing gear that was likely used to calculate the positions of the planets. But after performing an x-ray analysis of the disk, the researchers realized it wasn’t a gear at all, but some kind of decorative object adorned with the image of a bull. They suspect it was attached to the shield of a statue, or even to the ship itself.”
To clarify, haaretz (and I) have caused unnecessary excitement over the purported 'unearthing' of a piece of the antikythera mechanism. It was actually found and reported on (with no am connection) last year. Apologies for not checking before posting.. Cf https://t.co/UCWIDuU1EW
— rogueclassicist (@rogueclassicist) November 13, 2018
What the exact purpose of the disk remains a profound enigma not researched well enough.
Given the fact that we know nearly nothing of the disk, it is easy to make various assumptions. For starters, the Antikythera Mechanism is an extremely complex device, composed of a number of clocks and gears.
The disk-shaped object carrying the symbol of the Taurus seems rather crude to have belonged to such an elaborate device in the first place.
It may, however, been used in ancient times to adorn the device, and may have been part of the box that housed the Antikythera Mechanism at best.
However, in the same way, the disk may have been used to decorate anything else that the ship was carrying at the time, including priestly robes.
The exact number of cogs that composed the original Antikythera Mechanism remains an enigma. However, based on recent studies experts believed that it featured between 37 and 70 cogs.