The first specialized exhibition focusing on the controversial Antikythera Mechanism opens Wednesday at the Ionian Centre for Scientific Studies in Plaka, downtown Athens, in cooperation with the team of scientists studying the device.
The visitors of the exhibition, that will run until December 14, 2008, will learn about unknown applications of the Mechanism in ancient Greek calendars, the study of the movement of the Sun and the Moon, and eclipse prediction.
The exhibition is held under the auspices of the ministry of culture and in cooperation with the National Archaeological Museum of Athens where the Antikythera Mechanism is housed.
The Antikythera mechanism is believed to be an ancient mechanical calculator (also described as a "mechanical computer") designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 150-100 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity appeared a thousand years later.
Sometime before Easter 1900, Elias Stadiatis, a Greek sponge diver, discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship off Antikythera Island at a depth of 42 m (138 ft). Sponge divers retrieved several statues and other artifacts from the site. The mechanism itself was discovered on May 17, 1901, when archaeologist Valerios Stais noticed that a piece of rock recovered from the site had a gear wheel embedded in it. Examination revealed that the "rock" was in fact a heavily encrusted and corroded mechanism that had survived the shipwreck in three main parts and dozens of smaller fragments. The device itself was surprisingly thin, about 33 cm (13 in) high, 17 cm (6.7 in) wide, and 9 cm (3.5 in) thick, made of bronze and originally mounted in a wooden frame. It was inscribed with a text of over 2,000 characters, many of which have only just recently been deciphered.
If you haven't checked out the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project site yet, it's definitely worth a look ...