We have been trying to rescue the shipwreck with the oldest computer in the world for 120 years. We just took a huge step

  • 6

During the 19th century, hunger and lack of hope was so endemic in Greece that many they were pushed to devote himself to sponge fishing. It was a lucrative business, yes; but very dangerous. The divers had to dive into the sea with large stones strapped to their bodies and discard them when they ran out of air (just before ascending to the surface, loaded down with as many as they could collect).

Around 1869, the introduction of the first diving suits boosted production, but also increased the risks (and human lives). In the long history of economic development, money and death usually go hand in hand. Ships left the Aegean at Easter and traveled to the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, returning in the fall. That is why we know that the Antikythera wreck was found a few days after Easter 1900..

A treasure in the middle of the Mediterranean

Fivos Avgerinos F4 72onjnxa Unsplash

avgerian fives

Captain Dimitrios Kondos’s ship had left Symi for Easter and had taken refuge in Antikythera, halfway between Crete and the mainland, on its way to the African fishing grounds when the wind lost its favour. They took advantage of the stop to practice with the copper diving suits and teach the new divers; some of them entertained themselves by having competitions to see who could get the lowest. We know, for example, that Elias Stadiatis descended to a depth of 45 meters.

The oldest computer in the world is more than 2000 years old and has something very important to teach us

Upon resurfacing, Stadiatis began to speak of “decaying corpses and horses scattered among the rocks on the seafloor” and sailors became concerned that he had suffered nitrogen poisoning while diving. Nevertheless, he stuck to his guns and, before leaving for Africa, Kondos himself went down to check that it was just a mirage.

It took a long time. He took so long that the sailors began to get impatient and just as they were about to start dragging him up, Kondos signaled for him to be brought up. He brought with him the arm of a bronze statue. The wind had changed, they had to leave. But that other year they returned, they took out many things of water and, given the dimension of the discovery, they notified Athens. The first serious work to salvage the Antikythera wreck began in 1900 and they lasted throughout 1901. That’s where we found the ‘mechanism’, the oldest (analog) computer we know of.

A door to the past…

Nama Machine D Anticythere 1

Since then, Antikythera has been an inexhaustible source of information on “the history, economy, technology, and art” of ancient Greece and Rome. And yet, only part of the wreck was accessible. The exact moment is not clear, but the shipwreck must have sunk during the first century. Shortly after, an earthquake ‘locked’ a good part of the treasures under rocks of up to eight and a half tons.

More than a hundred years later, we have found the remains of Shackleton's 'Endurance' sunk in the Antarctic

The problem is that, for decades, divers have taken things out of the waters of Antikythera without plan or concert. No one documented where the mechanism was found, nor where the statues or relics were found. For sure, no one knows what the shipwreck was like, no one knows exactly what rock to look for under.

And how it’s not easy to search (Currently, divers can only spend half an hour at the wreck site, after 15 minutes of descent and just before having to go to the surface), not knowing how the wreck happened is a serious problem. A serious problem that, in recent years, has been tried to solve with the most advanced mapping systems in the world.

…but also a door to the future

Since 2012, driven by the work of Brendan P Foleyarchaeologists from the University of Venice, the Swiss School of Archeology in Greece and the Swedish University of Lund have once again thoroughly studied the waters of Antikythera and are working on 3D mapping techniques that will not only provide a better understanding of the design of the shipwreck , but also to know more about the ship in question (its age, its origin and its destination).

We just found an entire lost civilization under the Amazon.  thanks to measure clouds

They are not bad: for now, their efforts they just surfaced the head of an enormous statue of Hercules and, little by little, their 3D maps are making sense of the Antikythera shipwreck. However, this is the prelude to something bigger: the historic site is becoming a huge laboratory for new underwater archeology techniques.

It is not only that mechanisms are being put into practice to be able to manipulate the deposit (and lift the enormous stones) in an environment where everything costs up to five times more; but the first robots are already beginning to be used and they promise a whole paradigm shift. Again, looking to the past is often the best way to see a better future.

Image | Nikos Giannoulakis | Swiss School of Archeology in Greece

During the 19th century, hunger and lack of hope was so endemic in Greece that many they were pushed to…

During the 19th century, hunger and lack of hope was so endemic in Greece that many they were pushed to…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.