New findings suggest an ancient Greek device often referred to as the world’s “first analog computer” might be even older than anticipated, the New York Times reported.
Researchers from the University of Puget Sound and the University of Quilmes in Argentina wrote in the journal Archive for History of Exact Sciences this month that the Antikythera Mechanism, originally discovered following a shipwreck between 1900 and 1901, could date back to 205 B.C.
Historian Christián C. Carman and physicist James Evans said in their article that they experimented on the “Saros dial,” a display on the back of the device used to predict solar and lunar eclipses, in order to find its starting date, which they called the “Epoch date.”
“The eclipse predictor would work best if the full Moon of month 1 of the Saros dial corresponds to May 12, 205 BCE, with the Exeligmos dial set at 0,” they wrote, referring to a secondary dial on the lower half of the device. The researchers’ estimated starting date for the mechanism is between 50 and 100 years earlier than previously believed.
Carman and Evans’ findings lay doubt on a theory linking the mechanism’s designs to Greek mathematician and astronomer Archimedes, who was killed in 212 B.C.
The device, which was likely contained in a wooden crate and operated with a hand crank, was used not only to predict eclipses, but was able to track the dates of the Olympic Games as well as planetary positions. It is believed to contain the world’s oldest gear mechanism.