Decoding the Heavens - Antikythera mechanism

The Book

In 1900 a group of sponge divers blown off course in the Mediterranean discovered an Ancient Greek shipwreck dating from around 70 BC.

Lying unnoticed for months amongst their hard-won haul was what appeared to be a formless lump of corroded rock. It turned out to be the most stunning scientific artefact we have from antiquity. For more than a century this 'Antikythera mechanism' puzzled academics. It was ancient clockwork, unmatched in complexity for 1000 years - but who could have made it, and what was it for? Now, more than 2000 years after the device was lost at sea, scientists have pieced together its intricate workings and revealed its secrets.

In Decoding the Heavens, Jo Marchant tells the full story of the 100-year quest to understand this ancient computer. Along the way she unearths a diverse cast of remarkable characters – ranging from Archimedes to Jacques Cousteau – and explores the deep roots of modern technology not only in ancient Greece but in the Islamic world and medieval Europe too. At heart an epic adventure story, this is a book that challenges our assumptions about technology transfer over the ages while giving us fresh insights into history itself.

*** Shortlisted for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books***


  • Though it is more than 2,000 years old, the Antikythera Mechanism represents a level that our technology did not match until the 18th century, and must therefore rank as one of the greatest basic mechanical inventions of all time. I hope this book will rekindle interest in this artefact, which still remains under-rated.Arthur C. Clarke

An ancient Egyptian protractor?

Wooden case on display in Turin c. Jane Maria Hamilton

Posted: 31/07/2011 12:16:00
Did the ancient Egyptians build their impressive monuments with the help of the world's first protractors? A paper published last week on the physics preprint server suggests that the mysterious object in this picture, found in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian architect, could have been used as one. The architect was called Kha, and he lived during... more

New Website For Jo Marchant

This site is no longer regularly updated. For more information about Jo Marchant and her work, including her books Decoding the Heavens and The Shadow King, please visit her new site and blog: