I stood two years ago in an Athens historical museum, and observed the Antikythera Mechanism for the first time. I'd read a piece or two before over the device, and it is of a very curious nature for me.
What you can generally say of the story....a diver or two went down in the Med around the region of Greece, and found an old wreck. In the midst of this...he finds this mechanical-like device. He brings it up. All of this discovery business is in 1902.
It's only been in the last decade that a serious amount of attention has been poured into the remains of this mechanism. Shock might be the least of the comments offered by experts.
It's dating? The experts put the age of the device at roughly 200 to 70 BC in terms of construction.
The purpose? With all the gears and drives? It tracks the sun, the moon, the planets, the eclipses, and the Olympic schedule.
The amount of knowledge to assemble all of this into one single box.....in the 200 BC period? If you went to a PhD guy today, and said....build this....but without any connection to the internet, and it has to be a gear-like device....they'd laugh and just say it's impossible.
Why the necessity of such intense tracking? That's my chief question.
If you walk around and talk to 10,000 people....other than the date and time....99.9-percent have no need for information going beyond that. Throwing in the moon and it's position? No one would care. Toss in the position of five or six planets? No one would care. Talking about eclipses? No one would care. Assembling the Olympic schedule? No one would care.
Here's the thing which ought to make you sit and ponder. The first four purposes of the mechanism could have been around for 10,000 or 20,000 years. The first Olympics occurred around 776 BC. The curious interest of the Olympics in Athens might have been simply one feature added to the construction formula of this mechanism box.
How many were ever made? Unknown. Maybe one. Maybe a thousand. The thing is that you'd have an engineer guy who'd draw the plan, and develop the parts. I doubt if he'd do this for free....so he probably had a little business operation and sold a couple each month. Maybe some guy did this in 4,000 BC and just left enough parts sitting there for several thousand years to keep building these.
But this only draws you to this odd question....who would want to buy or own such a mechanism? Simply suggesting a traveler or trader....would not be enough. My pet theory is that an Olympics 'middle-man' had a boat hired up two years prior to the Olympics and toured around the Med and Black Sea....looking for under-classed sportsmen who just needed a bit of training and coaching to reach top level, and he used the mechanism to help him figure out the remaining days, weeks or months left before the big event.
So it sits. If ever in the Athens area....it's worth an hour of your time to step into the exhibit and survey the mechanism. Presently, I'd regard it as the second main attraction in the city worth surveying.