Models of the Antikythera mechanism

28. October 2008 18:17
Michael Wright's model of the Antikythera mechanism

Hello, and welcome to my blog! My plan is to keep you updated about any new developments relating to the Antikythera mechanism - there is lots of research going on and plenty of questions still to be answered, so I'm sure there will be some surprises to come. In particular, scholars are still reading the inscriptions that covered the device, so I'll write here about the progress they make as I hear about it.

I'll also let you know when I add new material to this website, and I'll keep an eye out for any other interesting news relating to ancient history, and ancient science and technology in particular.

For my first post, I thought I'd let you know about some of the models that have been made of the Antikythera mechanism, as a collection of them has just been brought together for an exhibition in Athens. The exhibition opened at the Ionic Centre last week, and it runs until 14 December. Since 2006, when Nature published a high profile paper explaining how the mechanism would have worked, building models of it - real and virtual - seems to have become quite a popular pastime. The ones on show in Athens include a transparent device made by an Italian amateur astronomer and computer programmer called Massimo Vicentini and a less traditional interpretation from a Dutch engineer called Tatjana van Vark. 

But my favourite has to be the model made by Michael Wright, who worked for many years as a curator at the Science Museum in London. He has spent twenty years studying the Antikythera mechanism, and after X-raying the surviving fragments he built a beautiful working brass model. Unfortunately he doesn't have a website I can link to but here's a photo of the model, that Wright sent to me. I'm hoping to post a video of it soon. 

Several people have asked me if any Antikythera models are commercially available. As far as I know there are no plans for this yet, but with the interest that's out there I'm sure it's only a matter of time.