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Subject: Antikythera Mechanism

Antikythera Mechanism

From: Yanis Bitsakis <bitsakis>
Date: Thursday, May 18, 2006
The Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece is organizing the
following presentation:

    The Antikythera Mechanism: Investigating Ancient Technologies
    with the Latest Techniques

More than a hundred years ago an extraordinary mechanism was found
by sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of
Antikythera. It astonished the whole international community of
experts on the ancient world. Was it an astrolabe? Was in an orrery
or an astronomical clock? Or something else? For decades, scientific
investigation failed to yield much light and relied more on
imagination than the facts. However research over the last half
century has begun to reveal its secrets. It dates from around the
1st century B.C. and is the most sophisticated mechanism known from
the ancient world. Nothing as complex is known for the next thousand
years. The Antikythera Mechanism is now understood to be dedicated
to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical
"computer" which tracks the cycles of the Solar System.

Previous researchers have used the latest technologies available to
them-such as x-ray analysis-to try to begin to unravel its complex
mysteries. Now a new initiative is building on this previous work,
using the very latest techniques available today. The Antikythera
Mechanism Research Project is an international collaboration of
academic researchers, supported by some of the world's best
high-technology companies, which aims to completely reassess the
function and significance of the Antikythera Mechanism. Results are
already very promising.

The project is under the aegis of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture
and is supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, UK. It has
received strong backing from the National Archaeological Museum in
Athens, which is custodian of this unique artefact. Two of the
Museum's senior staff, Head of Chemistry, Eleni Magkou, and
Archaeologist, Maria Zafeiropoulou, have co-ordinated the Museum's
side of the project and are actively involved with the research.

One UK and two Greek universities are the core of the academic
research group-the astronomer Mike Edmunds and the mathematician
Tony Freeth (University of Cardiff), the astronomer John Seiradakis
(University of Thessalonica), the astronomer Xenophon Moussas and
the physicist, Yanis Bitsakis (University of Athens). And last, but
not least, the philologist and palaeographer Agamemnon Tselikas (NBG
Cultural Foundation).

During the first data-gathering phase in the autumn of 2005, the
most innovative technologies were used to reveal unknown elements of
the mechanism. This research was carried out by two world-class high
technology companies, Hewlett Packard (US) and X-Tek Systems (UK).
X-Tek's superb three-dimensional x-rays were imaged using software
from the leading German company, Volume Graphics. Technical support
was also provided by the University of Keele (UK). The whole process
was filmed by Tony Freeth's Film and Television production company,
Images First, for a forthcoming TV documentary.

During September 2005, three specialized scientists from
Hewlett-Packard's Mobile and Media Systems Laboratory came to Athens
with their innovative digital imaging system to examine the surface
inscriptions and other features on the Antikythera Mechanism. The HP
team-Tom Malzbender, Dan Gelb and Bill Ambrisco-brought with them a
remarkable piece of specialist equipment: a Dome that surrounds the
sample under examination and takes a series of still photos to
analyze the three-dimensional structure of the surface. This enables
astonishingly detailed examination of fine details such as faded and
worn inscriptions. It has been a revelation for the research team.
Some examples of their work can be browsed at:


    **** Moderator's comments: The above URL has been wrapped for
    email. There should be no newline.

During October 2005, another team of specialists from the
cutting-edge company, X-Tek Systems, came to Athens.  Led by the
company's pioneering proprietor, Roger Hadland, the group of experts
consisted of David Bate, Andrew Ramsay, Martin Allen, Alan Crawley
and Peter Hockley. Their aim was to use the very latest x-ray
technology to look at the internal structure of the mechanism with
its complex and confusing gear trains. With them they brought the
prototype of a very powerful new x-ray machine, the eight-tonn
"Bladerunner". Originally designed to search for minute cracks in
turbine blades, this machine gives astonishingly detailed
three-dimensional x-rays, using the latest "microfocus" x-ray
techniques. It has opened a remarkable window on microscopic
internal details of inscriptions and gearing at a resolution better
than a tenth of a millimeter. Inscriptions can now be read that have
not been seen for more than two thousand years and this is helping
to build a comprehensive picture of the functions of the Antikythera
Mechanism. Some of the initial images from the Blade Runner can be
seen at this address: <URL:>

This is work-in-progress and results are emerging on a weekly basis
as the data is analyzed. Within a few months, when the results have
been checked and collated, more information on the ongoing research
will be released at <URL:>

For the future, the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project is
planning a major conference in Athens in the autumn of 2006 to
present their research findings. These results promise to open a new
chapter in the understanding of this extraordinary mechanism.

The current event will take place on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 8pm, at
the Amphitheatre of the Karatzas building of the National Bank of
Greece, Eolou str. 82-84.


    Mike Edmunds
    Professor of Astronomy, Cardiff University
    "The Extraordinary Antikythera Mechanism"

    John H. Seiradakis
    Professor of Astronomy, Aristotle University of Thessalonica
    "The innovative techniques applied to the Antikythera Mechanism

    Martin Allen
    X-Tek Systems UK
    "Pioneering methods of tomography: Implementation on the
    Antikythera Mechanism"

    Xenophon Moussas
    Professor of Space Physics, director of the Astronomy
    Laboratory, Athens University
    "Rewriting History?"

    Eleni Magkou
    Chemist, director of the Chemical and Physical Investigation
    Laboratory, National Archaeological Museum
    "The history of the technologies applied to the Mechanism"

    Mary Zafeiropoulou
    Archaeologist-museologist at the Bronze Collection of the
    National Archaeological Museum
    "The Antikythera Mechanism, Yesterday and Today"

    Agamemnon Tselikas
    Director of the Center for Paleography of the NBG Cultural
    "Penetrating into the secret writings of the Mechanism"

For more details on the event email bitsakis [at] gmail__com.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:56
                   Distributed: Friday, May 19, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-56-002
Received on Thursday, 18 May, 2006

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