At some point between 70 and 60 BCE, a Greek ship heading from Asia Minor to Rome sank in the Mediterranean. When a group of sponge divers discovered the wreck in 1900, they salvaged three pieces of bronze comprising a device that became known as the Antikythera mechanism.

The artifact, which is roughly the size of a shoebox, puzzled scholars for more than a century, largely because the sophistication of its gears and internal workings are far beyond any known Greek technology of the time. In fact, the Antikythera mechanism has long been a favorite of fringe academics claiming it as evidence of alien visitations in ancient history.

X-rays of the artifact in the late 20th century revealed, however, that it is designed to track astronomical movements. The finding was confirmed by 2006 CT scans revealing inscriptions that are instructions for what is, functionally, an ancient computer. While its use as an astronomical measure is no longer mysterious, the Antikythera mechanism’s singularly advanced construction and precision still pose questions about Greek technology.

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