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Astronomical clock of Antikythera: New digital model



An international research team has discovered a human skeleton during the ongoing excavation of the famous shipwreck of Antikythera (ca. 65 BC).

astronomical clock of Antikythera

1. Backgrounds

The shipwreck, which contains the remains of a Greek trading or cargo ship, is located off the Greek island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea.

The first skeleton recovered from the wreck site at the time of the DNA analysis., this discovery could provide insight into the lives of people who lived 2100 years ago.

Led by technical experts and archaeologists from the Hellenic Ministry of the WHOI: Culture and Sports and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.,

The team recovered and excavated a human skull including long arm and leg bones, jaw and teeth, ribs, besides other remains.

Other parts of the skeleton are still embedded in the seafloor, awaiting excavation in the next phase of operations.


2. An amazing object

It should be noted that no object of the same age and technical complexity as the Antikythera machine is known in the world.

The first comparable mechanisms appeared at least a thousand years after the sinking of the Roman ship.

If this machine had not been found, historians and archaeologists would never have imagined such a mechanism possible at such a remote time.


Around 1905, Albert Rehm, a German philologist (specialist in ancient writings), was the first to understand that the Antikythera machine was an astronomical calculator.

Half a century later, when the British historian of science Derek de Solla Price described the mechanism in an article in the journal Scientific American., he was still far from having solved everything.

3. How Antikythera machine works

According to Price, the machine was operated by a hand crank.

 The machine was asked an astronomical or calendar question, and the answer was displayed by hands on the dials on the front or back.

By turning the crank, the user could set the machine to a date indicated on a 365-day calendar dial located on the front panel.

At the same time, the crank operated gears to produce information about the selected date.

It was also possible to rotate the calendar dial to add a day once every four years, on the same principle as our leap years.

A second dial, with the same center as the calendar, is located on the front.

The 360 degrees of the circle and the 12 symbols of the constellations of the zodiac were shown on it.

The zodiac is the area of the celestial sphere where the Sun, Moon and planets of the Solar System move relative to the fixed stars as seen from the Earth.

This area extends 16 degrees on either side of the ecliptic plane, the plane defined by the Earth's orbit.


Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI.  Said that "Archaeologists study the human past through the objects created by our ancestors,"

"With the wreck of Antikythera, we can now connect directly with that person who sailed and died aboard the ship of Antikythera."

The wreck of Antikythera is the largest shipwreck ever discovered, possibly a large grain carrier.

It was discovered and recovered in 1900 by Greek sponge divers.

In addition to dozens of marble statues and thousands of antiquities, their efforts resulted in the creation of the Antikythera mechanism., an amazing artifact known as the world's first computer.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau with the CALYPSO team, nn 1976, returned to the wreck and recovered nearly 300 more artifacts., including skeletal remains of passengers and crew.

The skeleton discovered on August 31, 2016 is the first to be recovered from a shipwreck since the advent of DNA studies.

The expert in DNA, Dr. Hannes Schroeder, from the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, rushed to Antikythera to view the remains.

Once permission from the Greek authorities is obtained, samples will be sent to his laboratory for a full suite of analysis.

If sufficient viable DNA is preserved in the bones, we could identify the geographic origin and ethnic of the shipwreck victim.

Schroeder said that against all odds, the bones have survived on the sea floor more than 2,000 years… and they appear to be in very good condition, which is incredible.

The Antikythera research team generates accurate three-dimensional digital models of each artifact.;

Allowing the findings to be shared instantly and widely even if the objects remain on the sea floor.

Several 3D models of the skeletal remains are available to researchers and the public on the Antikythera Projectweb page.


"Our reality captures technology not only helps share the amazing story of Antikythera with digital models and 3D printed artifacts.

But it also enables important research. Jonathan Knowles of Autodesk Explorer in Residence said


4. Project Overview

This project is supported by corporate partners: 

Hublot, Autodesk, Cosmote, Jane and James Orr, the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, the Domestic Property Committee of Kythera and Antikthera.

The Municipality of Kythera and Costa Navarino Resort and private sponsors Swordspoint Foundation .

The research team consists of archaeologists, Dr. Theotokis Theodoulou and Dr. Dimitris Kourkoumelis (Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports);

Research Specialist, Dr. Brendan Foley (WHOI); archaeologist Alexander Tourtas.

 professional technical divers Edward O'Brien (WHOI), Philip Short, Alexandros Sotiriou, Nikolas Giannoulakis and Gemma Smith; videographer Evan Kovacs; documentary filmmaker Michalis Tsimperopoulos;

supported by Michalis Kelaidis, Dimitris Romio and Dimitris Manoliades. Stefan Williams, Oscar Pizarro, and Christian Lees., of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney led the robotic mapping study.

Brett Seymour, an underwater photographer with the U.S. National Park Service, and David Conlin, an archaeologist, are providing their time and expertise.

The project of return to Antikythera is supervised by the director of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, Dr. Aggeliki Simosi.

Under the aegis of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopios Pavlopoulos.

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