Recently, I created a thread that showed how an engineer had successfully duplicated elements of the Antikythera device using Lego Technic components
... a truly eye-opening and amazing achievement.
Well worth taking a look at for those of you with an interest in ancient devices who haven't already done so.
Antikythera mechanism: Apple engineer makes fully functional reproduction out of Lego parts
The above got me thinking further about not the device itself, but what the existence of the device implies regarding the technological, mathematical
and scientific framework that simply HAD
to be in place for such a device to have been even considered, designed and completed successfully.
Consequently, I decided a thread along those lines might not be a bad idea and could serve to generate additional incites regarding those long ago
scientific geniuses responsible for the creation of the Antikythera device.
When you stop to really consider the ramifications resulting from the existence of the Antikythera device for the degree of actual Greek scientific,
mathematical and technological knowledge circa 100 - 200 B.C., and then compare it to the classically accepted status of Greek knowledge for that time
period, there is an obvious incongruity. Such a device immediately and unambiguously implies that ancient Greek knowledge and technology simply had to
have been more advanced than we've been led to believe and that therefore, there must be significant gaps/losses in our understanding of
civilizations that were precedent to our own.
And if we follow that train of logic, there is no reason at all to suppose that such advanced technology and knowledge was entirely restricted to the
ancient Greek civilization alone. Knowledge doesn't exist in isolation or a vacuum but has a tendency to be disseminated and shared and become
universally available. Knowledge also doesn't appear fully formed but is the result of much experimentation and discovery by earlier civilizations
that subsequently "bequeathed" that knowledge to the civilizations that eventually followed and replaced them.
With the re-discovery of the Antikythera device, comes conclusive and indisputable evidence that ancient knowledge was, at one point in time, far more
sophisticated than currently believed but which for reasons currently unknown, was subsequently lost and forgotten for millennia afterwards.
The Antikythera device was constructed to perform automatic calculations relating to the movement of the moon, sun and planets and to facilitate the
accurate prediction of occurrence of certain celestial phenomena.
So lets take a quick look at the prerequisite technology and knowledge that simply HAD to have been in existence, in place and in use within that
ancient Greek civilization for the design and construction of such a device to even have a hope of succeeding.
1. Working backwards from the completed, highly accurate and fully working device, it's plainly obvious that the designers/craftsmen had to have a
sophisticated understanding of the movements of the celestial bodies plus access to highly accurate data relating to their movements. Without such a
foundation, the construction of the device would have been entirely futile and even if completed, would have produced highly inaccurate results.
So therefore there MUST have been a very large body of highly detailed and extremely accurate astronomical observations ALREADY in existence to use
as input data in the devices design and construction.
This implies a concerted effort would have been necessary to acquire such data and as one person working alone would not have been able to produce
such data, therefore the existence of a group or society (whether Greek or pre-Greek) specializing in such astronomical data having existed at some
earlier point in time prior to the device, would be mandatory.
2. The success of the design was entirely dependent on the mathematical calculations performed by the multitude of internal gears. These gears
essentially functioned as an analogue computer/calculator using the equivalent of a hard-coded program with calculation parameters stored in the form
of gear diameter, cog/teeth count and rotational speed to generate results and produce variable output.
This immediately implies that the designers had expert knowledge of gear mechanics and how gear ratios and transmitted torque are controlled by gear
wheel diameter and cog/teeth number. This further implies that the final arrangement of the multitude of gears within the device were NOT arrived at
by random trial and error but in fact MUST have been pre-designed and accurately calculated regarding physical placement, gear diameter, teeth count,
to the physical construction of the device itself.
To do this, the designers must have been FULLY aware of and conversant with the equivalent of the following displayed modern table that supplies the
necessary formulas that MUST be used when working with gears.
Note that the Antikythera gears primarily consisted of the simplest type of gear shape, referred to as spur gears
Obviously they would NOT have used the EXACT terminology and formulas as shown in the above table but they MUST have had a comparable equivalent that
they relied upon when calculating gear wheel diameter, teeth number, etc.
Without such highly advanced mathematical knowledge relating to gear mechanics, the Antikythera device would have been impossible to design, let
One also has to raise the question that with the incredibly sophisticated knowledge and understanding of gear mechanics demonstrated by the creators
of the Antikythera device, surely it seems incredulous that such knowledge and expertise would have been used once only, and entirely restricted to,
the development of the device itself. Why would such extensive knowledge and control of gear mechanics NOT
permeate that entire ancient Greek
civilization and be used in multitudes of different ways to benefit that civilization ? The benefits of gear based mechanics must have been obvious
... and yet we are clueless in this regard.
3. Now, one has to understand that such sophisticated and unquestionably advanced technology and mathematical knowledge cannot exist in isolation and
does not appear out of nowhere.
The implication is that there must have been other related branches of technology and mathematical knowledge equally as sophisticated and advanced
which apparently, along with the Antikythera technology, again for some reason became lost and forgotten to later civilizations.
4. The Antikythera device is unquestionably one of sophistication and extreme precision and therefore would have required correspondingly highly
specialized tools and instruments in its manufacture. One doesn't create a finally crafted watch using a crude hammer and other inappropriately sized
tools but instead uses tools specifically designed for such fine and delicate work. Such must have also been the case with the Antikythera device.
There must have been additional craftsmen involved who had developed the techniques and knowledge required to produce the tools essential for the
construction of the device. This implies metallurgical specialization of the highest order.
Again, such specialist metallurgical knowledge and techniques didn't appear fully formed and available overnight purely for the construction of the
device, but had to have already been in existence and available within the Greek civilization of that period, only to be lost and forgotten.
Ok, the preceding points are ones that in my opinion are the immediately obvious corollaries to the existence of the Antikythera device. However, I'm
sure that with just a bit more consideration, that many, many more would become obvious.
It's one thing to fixate upon the device itself as undoubtedly it IS
unique amongst historical artifacts. But when one takes a step back and
begins to ask HOW
was the device planned, designed and constructed, then it becomes obvious that the device is the equivalent of a rock being
dropped into a pond ... and the resulting "ripples" caused by the devices very existence cannot help but make us question our smug and know-it-all
attitude and belief that ancient civilizations were almost entirely technologically, scientifically and mathematically "primitive".