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An Ancient Philosopher’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Mysterious Antikythera Mechanism

Evening Program

Friday, March 24, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1B0196

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Relic of a gear on the Antikythera Mechanism, ca. 150–100 B.C. (National Archaeological Museum, Athens)

The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. The device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C.  For years, scientists and historians have struggled to understand exactly what it is: perhaps some kind of astrological calculator, or instrument for predicting planetary phenomena?  Is it an elaborate calendar? Clues may lie in the thousands of tiny characters inscribed on the device. New research has translated a fraction of that text, and experts now believe the mechanism was a kind of philosopher's guide to the galaxy, a textbook of astronomy as it was understood more than 2000 years ago. Alexander Jones, interim director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, shares some its long-held secrets.

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Get a close-up look at remaining fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism and learn what the latest research suggests about its original purpose and use.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)