In 1901, a group of Greek sponge divers made an astounding discovery off the island of Antikythera in the Aegean Sea — a Roman-era shipwreck filled with riches. Dive after thrilling dive revealed statues, gold jewelry, and coins.
But the divers also surfaced a few lumps of bronze. Though initially overlooked, these unassuming pieces were actually the wreck’s greatest treasure. They were pieces of an intricate, ancient Greek computer from approximately 2,000 years ago. It’s now known as the Antikythera mechanism — the oldest computer in history.
The Antikythera mechanism has frustrated and fascinated scientists ever since. Ancient Greeks used history’s oldest computer for a multitude of purposes. The device could mark the passage of time on at least three different calendars, track the movement of celestial bodies, and pinpoint the waxing and waning of the Moon.
But the Antikythera mechanism contains a universe of mystery all its own. Where did the technology for such a device come from? And why wasn’t anything like it seen for hundreds of years after the device sank?
Today, scientists are hopeful that new technology can finally reveal answers.