New model of the Antikythera mechanism

28. January 2009 14:17


Close up of front dial

After letting you know about the upcoming conference featuring members of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, today I can update you about Michael Wright, who has been working on the Antikythera mechanism since the early 1980s. He made the first working model of the mechanism (I've previously posted a video of it on youtube). Now he's working on a second model.

The first version was made out of packing crate wood and recycled brass plates from a pub door. Michael built it bit by bit, reworking and replacing different sections over the years as he studied his X-rays of the original Antikythera fragments, and worked out how the machine was put together.

Model of Antikythera mechanism, front view

Now that the structure of the mechanism is generally agreed upon (the surviving parts at least), Michael is making a smarter display version, and he has kindly sent me some photos of it. The case is made of maple, with wood panels above and below the front dial instead of the old brass strips. The dials are pretty similar to the older model, but the new ones are neater, and Michael says he has worked out how the calendar ring was held into the front dial, which he wasn't sure about before.

The top two photos show the mechanism from the front - the pointers show the Sun, Moon and the five planets that the Greeks knew about, as they circle through the sky. The inner dial is a zodiac scale, while the outer dial shows the days of the year. In the close up you can see the engravings better - look for the Sun pointer (second from left, labelled "Helios"). On the zodiac scale you should also be able to recognise Parthenon on the left (the Greek name for the sign Virgo) and Chelai on the right (meaning "claws", this is what the Greeks called the sign of Libra).

Close up of upper back dial, showing inner Olympiad dialThe third picture is a close up of part of the upper back dial - it was a spiral calendar inscribed with local month names, with a tiny 4-year dial inside it showing the timing of the Panhellenic Games, including the Olympic Games. Below this is a second spiral (not shown) which displayed the details of upcoming lunar and solar eclipses.

What a wonderful piece of machinery. I've had quite a few emails from people asking where they can buy an Antikythera mechanism for themselves, but as far as I know there are no plans to make them commercially.


Comments (5) -

1/28/2009 3:29:45 PM #


Love your site.
Looks like the pictures don't work on this post though Frown

Robert Israel

1/28/2009 5:38:14 PM #

Seconding the problem with the images.

DU United States

1/29/2009 9:58:19 AM #

Hi, sorry about that! The pictures were tiff files, which I've found out don't work in many browsers. I've tried again with jpegs so hopefully this is better.
cheers, Jo

JoM United Kingdom

1/31/2009 8:43:59 PM #

Big thumb up!

Robert Israel

5/26/2009 7:43:12 AM #

this model looks good and very promising.I would love to see when  it will be implemented

How Can United States