A 2,000 Year Old Greek Geared Calculator For Astronomy

This is not an article about art conservation but the incredible technology known and produced anciently was irresistible to me for posting. I hope you find this a wondrous evidence of the human mind… especially in ancient times.

I had a very busy morning planned but this posting by Craig Deller on the Facebook page of The Art of the Conservator grabbed me and highjacked my schedule. I couldn’t tear myself away from this wonderful quality video of the inconceivable 2,000 year old Greek technology and manufacturing wonder. Wow, its incredible how much we do not know about past civilizations and their capabilities. I’m bedazzled.

https://vimeo.com/518734183?fbclid=IwAR2ZoELQhhZvXS3paAvuvL8g-bHMavK7xGshn6udsKFKGxVrGti6MW8S9X4The research, technology and collaboration of specialized knowledge to update us on the unraveling of the corroded puzzle was put together very nicely in this video.

The UCL Antikythera Research Team struggle to solve the front of the Antikythera Mechanism—a fragmentary ancient Greek astronomical calculator—revealing a dazzling display of the ancient Greek Cosmos. The team represented so many academic disciplines, that you found how Parmenides approximation method applied and the nested axles. I really hope you find a method the Greeks could have used to machine those tubes. But I don’t think that is such a mystery: A comment by Adam Wojcik at 25:31 “If you’ve got no lathe in Ancient Greece…”

Why would you assume that? Given the complexity of the gearing and the engineering knowledge required to come up with it in the first place… Why would you presume the Ancient Greeks incapable of imagining a machine as simple as a lathe?? A potter’s wheel is little more than a foot powered lathe. If you can understand how a gear works, you can definitely figure out how to cut with a lathe-like machine. So, as soon as he said it, I had a knee jerk reaction. Given the technology of the device, a lathe would have been child’s play.

Something like this doesn’t spring fully formed from nothing. I know it’s difficult to put the pieces of material technology together that far back. More interesting info on the ingenuity and applied intellect of the ancient Greeks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero_of_Alexandria#Inventions

Want to contact me? Scott M. Haskins 805 570 4140 mobile

Have a wondrous day!

Scott M. Haskins in the lab with WPA murals from the Long Beach Library

About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/testimonials/
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