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Humanity’s First Computer

In the spring of 1900, a group of sponge divers blown off course by a storm took shelter in the harbor of the island of Antikythera, near Crete. When the storm died down, they dove into the water. To their surprise, they found an ancient shipwreck full of treasures, including bronze and marble statues, gold jewelry, pottery, luxury glassware, and more. Among them were bronze fragments almost completely encrusted— the surviving pieces of the Antikythera Mechanism.

Antikythera Mechanism- Fragment A, National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece, Garrett Ziegler/Flickr,

Its secret forgotten for over 2000 years, the Antikythera Mechanism was a machine capable of indicating: the position of the sun, moon, planets; lunar phases; and eclipses. Modern tools for scanning have revealed that it consisted of a set of interlocking gears. The complex mathematical device provides a window into the history of the astronomical knowledge of the ancient Greeks.

Works cited:

Marchant, Josephine. Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old-Computer and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets. Cambridge, Ma, Da Capo Press, 2010.

“No. 1031: Antikythera Mechanism.”,

“Antikythera Mechanism Research Project.”,

“Antikythera Mechanism.”,


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