The Antikythera Mechanism is one of the most remarkable artefacts ever discovered. It was found by sponge divers off the coast of the Aegean island of Antikythera just over a century ago. The device consists of four fragments with a total of 30 bronze gears.
Very little intensive investigation was done until the early 1950s when Derek J. de Solla Price (1922-1983) a professor at Yale University undertook a study of the Mechanism. His conclusions were published in a number of papers including Gears from the Greeks, now available as a pdf file(r).
It was originally dated to the 1st century BC and had been ascribed by some to the Greek astronomer Hipparchos, but recent research by Professor Alexander Jones of New York’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World has pushed this back to the 2nd century BC(b). Jones dismissed as ‘desperate’ a suggestion by Dr Jo Marchant, that the mechanism had been part of a timepiece that possibly controlled the sequential appearance of figures to indicate seasons. Marchant is the author of Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World’s First Computer.
A report(n) published in November 2014 revised further the date of its creation back to 205 BC. Further research by the American historian James Evans led him to offer the claim that the mathematics on which this machine is based (more precisely the arithmetic) does not correspond to the Greek, but to the Babylonian(ai). The level of ancient Greek celestial knowledge is also being reappraised in the light of a recent study of a decorated cup of a type known as a skyphos(o).
The superiority of Babylonian mathematics was supported by a recent study of a 3,700-year-old tablet known as Plimpton 322. The tablet was discovered around a century ago in what is now southern Iraq. Australian scientists from the University of New South Wales, Sydney have now demonstrated that the tablet is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, predating the Greek astronomer Hipparchos by over a millennium(z).
The Mechanism is apparently a clockwork device for calculating astronomical events. A number of models have been built(c), based on the evidence of the fragments discovered and further study is continuing. Even Lego was used by designer Andrew Carol to build a replica of the mechanism(e)(d). Furthermore, in November 2011 Hublot, the Swiss watch manufacturer, revealed(h) that they had designed a wristwatch based on the Antikythera Mechanism.
In 2008, it was announced that writing engraved on the housing indicated the locations of athletic games; “The Games dial shows six competitions, four Panhellenic (Olympics, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean) plus Naa (Dodona) and very probably Halieia (Rhodes)(w).“
At the same time, a possible connection with the renowned Archimedes was being posited by some commentators(f). An even more remarkable feature was the clever use of two gears, one positioned slightly off-centre in relation to the other, allowing the mechanism to track the apparent speeding up and slowing down of the moon each month, resulting from its elliptical rather than circular orbit(g).
The question that has now arisen is whether “It is possible that the mechanism is based on heliocentric principles, rather than the then-dominant geocentric view espoused by Aristotle and others.”(ab)
Dr Minas Tsikritsis, a Cretan researcher, maintains that an object from the Minoan Age discovered
in 1898 in the Paleokastro site on Crete, was in fact “a cast for building a mechanism that functioned as an analog computer to calculate solar and lunar eclipses.”(i) This was nearly a millennium and a half before the Antikythera Mechanism was manufactured, which would make it Minoan.
Some commentators, such as David Hatcher Childress, see the Antikythera device as just another piece of evidence of more complex scientific knowledge among early cultures than is usually accepted and that by extension the possibility of a technologically advanced Atlantis.
In his 2014 book, The Stonhenge Codes, Professor David P.Gregg, has devoted an appendix to the sophistication of the mechanism, in which he discusses the functions of individual shafts and gears. His objective is to show that its complexity is comparable to that of Stonehenge and that our view of early Greek mathematics and astronomy requires revision. His book can be read online(j).
A January 2019 article elaborates further on the Mechanism’s function as a predictor of possible eclipses(ae). It may be worth recalling that in the 1960’s, Gerald Hawkins suggested that the 56 Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge were also eclipse predictors, an idea endorsed by Fred Hoyle.(af)
More recently (Feb.2020), Alexander Jones, has offered a highly technical investigation((ag) of the possible date for the construction of the Mechanism and concluded that “while the dating of the eclipse series inscribed on the Mechanism’s Saros Dial taken by itself may suggest a dating of the Mechanism’s construction somewhere within the 76 years after 205/204 BCE, other considerations such as the archaeological context in which it was found, together with what is otherwise known of the development of Greek astronomy in the Hellenistic period, may outweigh this preference and favor a later date.”
Opus Gemini, a trilogy of novels by Andreas Möhn, based on the Antikythera Mechanism was published in the Kindle format in September 2013 and is also available in other formats. Further information and updates are available on his website(m).
The following website(a), will keep you up to date on related developments.
New Scientist announced on June 4th 2014(k) that plans have been made to dive again to the Antikythera wreck in the hope of finding a second ‘mechanism’, using a ‘wearable submarine’. The Sept/Oct season of 2014 ended with evidence that the ship had been up to 50 metres long, making it the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered(l).
The February 2015 edition of Smithsonian Magazine gives an up-to-date review of the scientific studies of the Mechanism(p). In June 2016 the Smithsonian returned to the subject with an article(u) devoted to the extensive writing, some less than a millimetre tall, revealed by CT scans on virtually every surface. This recent study indicates that the Mechanism also appears to have an astrological purpose! These investigations also pointed to the Aegean island of Rhodes as its place of manufacture.
In August 2016, further dives confirmed that “the ancient cargo in Antikythera, still full of goods, is located at a depth of around 60 metres, making the work of divers particularly difficult. They only have 20 minutes to explore the sea. To help them, a set of submarine drones are currently being developed for next year. They will detect metal and make real-time analyses of the data collected.”(v)
Another paper(t) in 2015 offers a more complete history of the Mechanism’s discovery and subsequent studies.
In 2017, further objects were recovered from the wreck, including parts of a metal statue, as well as compacted metal objects that have yet to be cleaned and separated. It seems that the site has not yielded all its secrets yet(aa). There are indications that there may be as many as nine statues still to be recovered, which are under huge boulders that overlie the metal objects and may have tumbled onto the wreck during a massive earthquake that shook Antikythera and surrounding islands in the 4th century AD.
A physically smaller but important discovery was that of the part of a gearwheel in Olbia, Sardinia in 2006. Giovanni Pastore, an Italian mechanical engineer, has studied the object and written an article(s) on it for the Ancient Origins website, where he informs us that it is “dated between the mid-2nd century and the end of the 3rd century BC, has revealed a very important surprise: the teeth have a special curving which make them extraordinarily similar to the mathematically perfect profile used in modern gears. Moreover, the unusual composition of the alloy (brass) was completely unexpected.”
Inevitably, the suggestion has be made that first century BC Greeks could not have created the Mechanism without alien assistance as the following quote shows; “While many experts try to offer explanations for how this device could have been conceived, designed and built, all their concepts fail the tests of logic. There is only one possible explanation. Beings with advanced knowledge of astronomical bodies, mathematics and precision engineering tools created the device or gave the knowledge for its creation to someone during the first century B.C. But the knowledge was not recorded or wasn’t passed down to anyone else.“(x) It is also humourously ‘suggested’ that the early Greeks had laptops!! (q)
For the technically minded, a clockmaker known just as ‘Chris’ has an extensive website(y) where he has a number of videos illustrating how he has reconstructed copies of individual components of the Antikythera Mechanism.
In 2018, Charles River Editors have produced a fascinating volume  that offers a valuable history of the Mechanism and the various efforts to determine its origin and purpose.
A few days ago (17.11.18) it was announced that a missing piece of the Mechanism had been found near the site of the original finds(ac). However, Smithsonian Magazine swiftly adopted a more cautious approach(ad), claiming that it was probably not a piece of the Mechanism! Watch this space.
>In March 2021, further investigation revealed that the Mechanism also included “a complex planetarium on the ancient device’s face”, “that matches all the data and culminates in an elegant display of the ancient Greek Cosmos”, “showing the motion of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn—each represented by a small gem—along with the path of the Sun, the phases of the Moon, and the positions of the Zodiac constellations.”(ah)<
(e) See: Archive 3800
(x) See: Archive 3352
(z) Historia Mathematica, August 2017.
Amazons is the name used by classical writers(k) to identify two matriarchal nations living near the Black Sea and in ancient Libya, but at apparently different periods. An extensive website on the subject associates the Amazons with three locations; Lake Tritonis(j) , the Greek island of Lemnos(i) and the River Thermodon, now known as Terme Çay, in northern Turkey(h).
Accounts relating to these remote times are understandably vague but one tale describes the Libyan Amazons as waging war against the Atlanteans, a race who lived in a prosperous country with great cities.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that the Berbers, also known as Amazigh in North-West Africa have a matriarchal culture. The possibility of an etymological connection between Amazon and Amazigh was suggested by Guy C. Rothery (1863-1940) in his 1910 book, The Amazons , and recently endorsed by Emmet Sweeney in his Atlantis: The Evidence of Science. In 1912, Florence Mary Bennett published Religious Cults Associated with the Amazons, which has been republished in recent years.
Another matriarchal society in the same region has also been suggested for the Maltese Islands(h).
Sir John Chardin (1643-1713) a French-born traveller and merchant reported that a tribe of Amazons still existed in the Caucasus in the 17th century(d).
Although the idea may be seen as fanciful, recent archaeological discoveries have provided evidence of female warriors in ancient times in parts of the former Soviet Union. The archaeologist Jeannine Davis-Kimball has written of her investigations into the subject. Peter James offers a solution to the existence of two locations for the Amazons. He believes that the original Black Sea location is correct and that the transference of the story to North Africa was the result of the ‘libyanising’ intent of Dionysus of Miletus, who was later quoted by Diodorus Siculus in his account(f) of the Amazons.
. James offers this explanation as part of a larger relocation of mythologies to more westerly locations. Other interesting views of the Amazon mystery can be found on a number of websites(a)(b).
Lewis Spence advanced the imaginative view [259.49] that the Amazons were not women at all, but men whose appearance was considered effeminate by some commentators. A more rational explanation on offer is that the males of some peoples had little facial hair or shaved (such as the Hittites) and were possibly described by their more hirsute enemies as ‘women’.
The popular idea that the Amazons were single-breasted, man-hating warriors has recently been comprehensively debunked by Adrienne Mayor in her latest book, The Amazons .
>Even more eyebrow-raising is the suggestion that Amazon warriors existed in South America based on 16th century reports and modern research(c). Columbus, in a 1493 letter to Luis de Sant’angel, refers to an island named Matininó, which was inhabited only by women(m), armed with bows and arrows. Hernán Cortés also filed a similar report.<
The Smithsonian magazine published a useful overview(e) of the history of the Amazon story in the April 2004 edition and in September 2011 revealed the story of the little-known female warriors of Benin (formerly Dahomey), numbered in their thousands, who were active during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The BBC published an article in August 2018 on their history and their modern day descendants(l) .
The Megalith Builders, who date mainly from the Neolithic Period, are frequently identified with Plato’s Atlanteans. Their remarkable structures were built between the middles of the fifth and second millennia B.C., a period that is compatible with final days of Atlantis according to Plato. The building of megalithic structures in Western Europe appears to have ended just before the beginning of the Bronze Age – coincidence?
Proponents of the idea of a megalithic building Atlantis see the location and extent of the megalithic structures as being in agreement with Plato’s description, particularly his reference to Atlantis being ‘beyond the Pillars of Heracles’. However the location of the ‘Pillars’ at the time of Solon’s visit to Egypt, is strongly disputed. In fact the only territory unambiguously named by Plato as Atlantean was in southern Italy and North Africa along with a number of islands of which there are many in that region.
However, there are many features in Plato’s narrative that do not conform to our current knowledge of the megalith builders. There is no evidence that they had writing, irrigation technology or the navigational skills to mount an attack on Egypt/Athens or any other characteristics ascribed to the Atlanteans by him.
On the other hand, if these attributes are just literary flesh applied to a skeleton of historical truth there is the the possibility of a link between the Atlanteans and the megalith builders that still remains.
Atlantis enthusiasts are quite happy to associate the megalith builders with Atlantis, as it provides something tangible to enhance the credibility of Plato’s narrative pointing to sites such as Stonehenge or the Maltese Temples. British researcher Robert John Langdon has gone further and proposed that the megalith builders originally came from Africa and settled in Doggerland at the end of the Ice Age, where they established Atlantis. When Doggerland was submerged they migrated to what is now mainland Britain, where they built Stonehenge as a memorial to Atlantis.
While not a new idea, a megalithic connection with Atlantis has recently been given further attention by the French writer Sylvain Tristan who was inspired by Jean Deruelle and Alan Butler. Alfred deGrazia also joined this club as well as the German author Helmut Tributsch who has added his support to the idea of a megalithic Atlantis, specifically locating its capital on the island of Gavrinis in Brittany. A similar claim has been made by Hank Harrison who also believes that the Morbihan region was an important Atlantean centre if not the location of its capital. Further support for a megalithic Atlantis has been given by Walter Schilling who places Plato’s city in the Bay of Cadiz. Robert Temple has recently offered grudging support for the concept of Atlantean megalith builders.
Iberia is also home to very many megalithic strucures of varying types. Recently, lower waters in a Spanish reservoir revealed once more the impressive 144-stone Dolmen-de-Guadalperal, situated roughly halfway between Madrid and the Portuguese border(z) . Efforts are being made to ensure its preservation before the water levels rise again.
As far as I am aware classical writers make no obvious reference to the megalith builders, nor has this omission been commented on by modern writers. However, the numerous indirect references to Atlantis by the same ancient writers are deemed inadequate, which seems consistent with a dearth of information regarding early history.
It appears to me that other questions that have not been definitively answered relate to the identity of the megalith builders, why they stopped building and what happened to them. Another thought is that if the megalith builders lived at the same time as the Atlanteans, is it not strange that both disappeared around the same time, or did they? My opinion is that we are probably confronted with two unrelated mysteries – the disappearance of the megalith builders and the demise of Atlantis.
Parallel with the megaliths of the eastern Atlantic seaboard are the megaliths of North America(ab) . Who built them and when? Are they evidence of very early pre-Columbian voyagers from Europe?(b)
An interesting article combining all the strange aspects of megalith building can be read online(c) which certainly offers food for thought. A paper(d) published in September 2013 gives a good overview of megalithic studies during the past few decades. Walter Haug’s well illustrated website(k) offers a range of previously ignored megalithic sites in Germany.
Much nonsense has been written about the megalith builders, particularly on the Internet, where you find daft ideas such as attributing their construction to aliens(a). The suggestion that extraterrestrials had the technology to travel in space but when they land on earth they have to build observatories with stone is just silly. Why would they even need observatories?
A valuable website dealing with the global spread of megalithic monuments, is The Megalithic Portal established by Andy Burnham(g), which has regular updates. Other useful sites are Stone Pages(h) and Megalithic Ireland(i). Another site worth a look is from Sjur C. Papazian(l). There is also a site(j) dealing specifically with the dolmens of Corsica and Sardinia.
In the Middle East dolmens stretch in a line from the Caucasus(s)(p) to the Yemen with a remarkable concentration of them in modern Jordan(m), a fact which prompted a former Dutch ambassador to Jordan, Gajus Scheltema, to write Megalithic Jordan. Jordan is also home to an ancient mysterious 150 km wall, which was 1-1.5 metres high.(u)
Dolmens are also found in more distant lands such as India(r), Korea(n)(v) and Japan(o). It is difficult to look at the worldwide distribution of dolmens and not consider the possibility of some form of global cultural diffusion! Rarely discussed are the widely dispersed megalithic remains found throughout the Pacific islands(q).
There is a well-illustrated website offering an overview of the megalithic culture of Western Europe and the Mediterranean(t).
In February 2019 the Smithsonian Magazine had a report telling us that “Bettina Schulz Paulsson, an archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg, reexamined some 2,410 radiocarbon dating results that have been assigned to Europe’s megaliths and put them through a Bayesian statistical analysis. Based on the picture the data present, Schulz Paulsson believes that the megaliths were first constructed by dwellers of northwest France during the second half of the fifth millennium BC.” (w)
Some years ago, the renowned English archaeologist, Aubrey Burl, concluded after twenty years of study that French immigrants had built Stonehenge(aa). More recently, Mike Parker Pearson, a leading Stonehenge expert, has also endorsed this idea of a French origin for megalith building(x).
>Archaeologist, Robert Hensey in his insightful First Light [1766.9] has also noted that, “Construction of Breton passage tombs is likely to have ended by 3900 BC, almost certainly by 3800 BC, and the most recent evidence from Ireland suggests that passage tomb construction had not yet begun on this island by that time.”<
The interesting claims of Schulz Paulsson, who places the origins of megalithic construction in Brittany in the fifth millennium BC, may be challenged by a little-known counterclaim that tombs in the Ox Mountains in the west of Ireland have been dated to the seventh millennium BC(y). However, my personal view is that it would be more likely that the practice of megalith building would have spread from the east rather than from Ireland westward!
A rational explanation for the construction of cyclopean masonry has been offered by Professor of Architecture Jean-Pierre Protzen and demonstrated on a YouTube clip(f).
(a) https://www.world-mysteries.com/mpl_10ramm.htm (link broken July 2020)
(q) https://davidpratt.info/easter1.htm (section 10)