In October 1900 a ship of Greek fishermen of sponges coming from the African coasts was  denied by a storm to come back home. The commander decided to find shelter in the Island of Antikythera or Cerigotto. In the meantime, his sailors went diving looking for other sponges.

They found way more

Elias Stadiatis, who reached 60 m deep (195 ft), asked to be lifted up rapidly: he had seen corpses of men and horses laying on the seabed. Commander Dimitrios Kondos thought that the fisherman had had a vision, perhaps intoxicated by too much carbon dioxide. He decided to go and check it himself and, once he came back up, he reemerged with an arm. It was not a human one, but made out of bronze. Taking advantage of the mandatory break, the fishermen brought to the surface all the small objects from around 2,000 years before.

Head of Philitas of Cos, poet and ancient philosopher

Above: picture by Ishkabibble shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY SA 3.0

Antikythera Ephebe

Above: picture by Ishkabibble shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The same fishermen, half a year later, in agreement with the Greek authority, recovered other precious artifacts from the area renamed the Antikythera wreck. Several statues and many objects, even of small dimensions, were found.

Teams of archeologists ready to dive in the sea of Antikythera – 1900 or 1901

Above: picture from the public domain

Way more important than the head of the philosopher or, the Ephebe, or of the discobolus, there was a find which apparently was not worth of any attention: three small pieces of green bronze resembling stones covered up with algae. In reality though, they were the testimony of how advanced it was the technology in the Greece of the I century BC.

Above: picture by Weekend Wayfarers shared via Flickr – licence CC BY-SA 2.0

It is the Antikythera mechanism, a so modern device that it has been replicated not earlier than 1,000 years later.

Above: picture by Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

It was an instrument, put into motion by gearwheels, used to calculate the movement of the 5 planets know back then, as well as the one of the sun and moon. Furthermore it was able to calculate months, days of the week, the equinoxes and the dates of the Olympics.

Scheme of the Antikythera mechanism


Above: picture from the public domain

The mechanism was supposed to look like a table clock for its tiny dimensions (around 30×15 cm/ 12×6 inch) and his wooden frame which would shield it. Inside there were inscriptions incided , decoded only in 1951, which allowed the researchers to figure out how the tool worked. By many people, the mysterious object was defined as the first computer in the world.

Above: picture by Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

More recent studies revealed an inner inscription which removed all doubts: the object was supposed to measure astronomical events, eclissi and the dates of the Olympics.

Above: picture by Tilemahos Efthimiadis shared via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY.SA 3.0

The mechanism is the proof that a high level of technology was part of Greece in the II century BC, at least according to the professor Derek de Solla Price, who studied it for 20 years and assumed it to be possibly built in the 87 BC.  The Roman historian Cicero talked of similar mechanisms built by Archimedes of Syracuse in the III century BC and by the philosopher Posidonius of Rhodes, lived in the same era.

Above: picture by Dimitris Kamaras shared via Flickr – licence CC BY-SA 2.0

To whom was the precious tool destined though? The ship sank probably around the I century BC while heading towards Rome, loaded with works of art. Initially the archeologists thought this was the ship carrying the spoils of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix from Athens to Rome. Today, instead, the most accepted theory indicated Julius Caesar as the recipient of the treasures coming from Hellenic land: they were all supposed to enrich a triumphal parade of the Roman warrior.

Above: picture by Marsyas shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 2.5

As it usually goes with finds which show a reality rather far from ancient mindsets, even with the Antikythera mechanism people have talked of it as a “relic beyond its time”, implying it was some sort of proof of an alien culture being there. What the artifact shows to us instead is simply the unbelievable advanced technology that “only” a few populations managed to reach through history.

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