Phases in the Unraveling of the Secrets of the Gear System of the Antikythera Mechanism

T. Koetsier

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In November 2006 Tony Freeth et al. published a new reconstruction of the gear system of the Antikythera mechanism in the journal Nature. Important earlier reconstructions had been published by Derek de Solla Price in 1974 and Michael Wright in 2005. In this paper I will discuss the three reconstructions. Price did important work, but his reconstruction turned out to be seriously flawed, as Wright has shown in considerable detail. Wright’s work was a great advance on De Solla Price’s and resulted in a largely correct reconstruction of the topography of the wheelwork. He had identified a pin and slot mechanism that could model the anomaly of the Moon and he had discovered that the back dials consisted of spirals. Wright had got hold of most of the pieces of the puzzle, but some of the pieces didn’t fall into place. Freeth et al. gave the final solution. In the National Archeological Museum in Athens they discovered the so-called Fragment F of the mechanism. It yielded data that led to the discovery of the way in which the central wheelwork of the mechanism had functioned. I will argue that, while Wright was close to the solution, the 2006 paper in Nature represents a great step forward that was not taken easily. The creation of a team of 17 experts, engaging support from high-tech companies, can be considered an important change in research methodology. Wright worked alone; in Freeth’s team different kinds of expertise are represented by different individuals. The new approach has been very fertile: in July 2008 a second paper by Freeth and three others appeared in Nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Symposium on History of Machnies and Mechanisms
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of HMM 2008
EditorsHong-Sen Yan, Marco Ceccarelli
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Antikythera mechanism
  • history of gearing
  • history of planetaria


Dive into the research topics of 'Phases in the Unraveling of the Secrets of the Gear System of the Antikythera Mechanism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this