e-mail: email@example.comDepartment of Mechanical Engineering,National Cheng Kung University,1 University Road,Tainan 70101, Taiwan
Reconstruction Synthesis of theCalendrical Subsystem ofAntikythera Mechanism
The damaged excavation of the Antikythera mechanism presents the oldest astronomicalanalog computer in ancient Greece. Its interior mechanism is a complicated gear trainwith many subsystems in which some are unclear, such as the calendrical subsystem. Thiswork focuses on the reconstruction synthesis of the calendrical subsystem and provides asystematic approach to generate all feasible designs. Based on the studies of historicalliteratures and existing designs, the required design constraints are concluded. Then,according to the concepts of generalization and specialization of mechanisms, two fea-sible designs and 14 results of teeth counting, including the existing one by Freeth et al.(2002, “The Antikythera Mechanism: 1. Challenging the Classic Research,” Mediterra-nean Archaeology & Archaeometry,
, pp. 21–35; 2002, “The Antikythera Mechanism: 2. Is It Posidonius Orrery?,” Mediterranean Archaeology & Archaeometry,
, pp. 45–58;2006, “Decoding the Ancient Greek Astronomical Calculator Known as the Antikythera Mechanism,” Nature (London),
, pp. 587–591; 2008, “Calendars With Olympiad Display and Eclipse Prediction on the Antikythera Mechanism,” Nature (London),
, pp. 614–617; 2009, “Decoding an Ancient Computer,” Sci. Am.,
(6), pp. 76–83),which are in consistent with the science theories and techniques of the subject’s time period, are synthesized.
Keywords: Antikythera mechanism, reconstruction design, calendrical subsystem, syn-thesis of mechanism, ancient machines
The destroyed fragments of the Antikythera mechanism, theoldest known Greek astronomical machine, were accidentally dis-covered at the site of an antique shipwreck in 1900. In the lasthundred years, with the help of image technology, some recon-struction designs have gradually resolved the secret of the Anti-kythera mechanism. It is conﬁrmed that the Antikythera mecha-nism is a geared mechanism with several functions: It displays themotions of heavenly bodies, calculates between different calendarsystems, and records astronomical phenomena.From 1902, scholars, such as Stais, Svoronos, and Rediadis,began to study the Antikythera mechanism. They understood thedeep signiﬁcance of the mechanism but were unable to present acoherent explanation. Afterward, Rehm and Theophanidis alsosuccessively studied this mechanism. Around 1905, Rehm was theﬁrst man to deﬁne that the Antikythera mechanism was an astro-nomical calculator. Because of the limitation of technology at thattime, the previous reconstructions were incorrect in many ways.In 1974, de Solla Price produced the ﬁrst complete reconstructiondesign
. However, he misunderstood several fragmentimages and designed a differential gear train to display the lunarmotion. In 2000, based on de Solla Price’s work, Edmunds andMorgan provided the gear trains with a pin-in-slot device to ex-press the motions of Venus and Mars
. From 2002 to2007, Wright presented a new reconstruction design in a series of studies, including the gear trains to display the functions of back dials and a gear train with a pin-in-slot device to express the lunarmotion
. From 2006 to 2008, the Antikythera re-search project by Freeth et al. decoded numerous inscriptions onthe exterior and explained the transmission of interior gear trains.Furthermore, he discovered the existence of a dial to display theOlympiad cycle
. In 2008, Koetsier presented the histori-cal development of reconstructing the Antikythera mechanismthrough the analysis of each previous design and Greek astronomy
.Based on the reconstruction design by Freeth et al. shown inFig. 4, the Antikythera mechanism can be divided into the follow-ing ﬁve subsystems: the date subsystem, the calendrical sub-system, the lunar subsystem, the eclipse prediction subsystem, andthe lost subsystem. While previous studies have conﬁrmed themechanisms of the date subsystem, the lunar subsystem and theeclipse prediction subsystem, there is still much debate on theunclear calendrical subsystem and the lost components of the in-terior mechanisms.This study presents an approach for the reconstruction synthesisof the mechanism contained in the unclear calendrical subsystemof the Antikythera mechanism. Through this approach, all feasibledesigns of the calendrical mechanism that agree with the scienceand technology standards of the subject’s time period can be sys-tematically synthesized.
2 Historical Background
Figure 5 shows the excavated Antikythera mechanism
.Its deterioration underwater is the primary reason for the difﬁcultyof the reconstruction. In order to accurately reconstruct the Anti-kythera mechanism, the ﬁrst work is to understand and deﬁne theproblems, including the origins and applications. This can be ac-complished through the study of the existing literatures and his-torical background.From the decoding of inscriptions, the Antikythera mechanismis thought to be an ancient machine that existed between 150
Due to the lack of historical records, people knewnothing about the Antikythera mechanism before its discovery inthe year of 1900. Therefore, only direct evidences from the sur-viving fragments can be used to support the understanding of this
Corresponding author.Contributed by the Mechanisms and Robotics Committee of ASME for publica-tion in the J
. Manuscript received May 18, 2010; ﬁnalmanuscript received November 4, 2010; published online January 24, 2011. Assoc.Editor: Ashitava Ghosal.
Journal of Mechanical Design
FEBRUARY 2011, Vol. 133
/ 021004-1Copyright © 2011 by ASME