Scientific and Engineering Colloquium
May 28, 2010

"The Antikythera Mechanism"

In 1900 a party of sponge divers chanced upon the wreck of an ancient merchant vessel close to the Antikythera island, between Crete and mainland Greece. The shipwreck, dated between 86 and 67 B.C., was found to contain numerous ancient Greek treasures, among them a mysterious lump of calcified bronze. As it dried out and split open it revealed what experts determined to be the earliest known manufactured gears. This object, now known as the Antikythera Mechanism, is one of the most enlightening, albeit enigmatic, artifacts yet discovered because it reveals the advanced state of ancient Greek science and technology. As an astronomical device, it provides extraordinary evidence of high tech in ancient times and makes it necessary to rewrite the history and evolution of early technology.

Two imaging methods were used to reveal the Antikythera Mechanism’s secrets. Reflectance Imaging, coming from the field of computer graphics, was used to see shape detail of the surface of the fragments. Microfocus Computed Tomography was used to probe the interior of the fragments themselves. The combination of both methods allowed epigraphers read over 2000 new characters on the mechanism, in addition to the 800 that were previously deciphered. Professor John Seiradakis and Tom Malzbender will cover both the functioning of the mechanism and the imaging techniques that were used.

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