Review: ANTIKYTHERA Mechanism - The Book

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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

NAWCC Star Fellow
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NAWCC Life Member
Sep 23, 2001
Trying to Explore all Aspects of a Very Complex, Geared, Time Calculator Built about 2200 Years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean

Antikythera Mechanism - The Book - Conceived and created by Constantin Stikas, with scientific editing by Yanis Bisakis. With contributions by Eleni Kladaki-Vratsanou, Lefteris Tsavliris, Brendan Foley, Nikolaos Kaltsas, George Kakavas, Ioannis Theofanidis, Derek Sola Price, Charalambos Karakalos, Michael Wright, Mike Edmunds, John Seiradakis, Xenophon Moussas, Yanis Bitsakis, Agamemnon Tselikas, Alexander Jones, Roger Hadland, Tom Malzbender, Theodossis Tassios, Efthymios Nicolaidis, Girolamo Ramunni, Dominique Fléchon, Philippe Poniz, Aurel Bacs, Jean-Claude Biver, Mathias Buttet, Stephen Forsey, Eric Robuchon, Catherine Garcia-Maisonnier, Julie Duleau, Arnauld Maury, and Andrew Carol. ISBN 978-960-93-6387-7 Hardbound edition, ISBN 978-960-93-6386-0 Leatherbound luxury edition in Slipcase. Published 2014. 215 pages, 31cm x 25 cm. 36 page 'Album' section with moumerous, mostly color images. Index of subject and names. Available from at: [url][/URL] .

I became fascinated by the Antikythera mechanism in the early 1980s when I stumbled on Derek J. de Sola Price's 1974 small book "Gears from the Greeks" telling the unlikely story of sponge fishermen off the Greek island named Antikythera in the year 1900 finding a shipwreck predating the birth of Christ, which in addition to bronze statuary, and everyday items also yielded fragments of an unexplained geared mechanism now known as the Antikythera Mechanism.

The scholars at the Archeological Museum in Athens soon reached the conclusion that this could be a time calculator or a model of planetary motions. But the object, ossified after a millennium in saltwater, at first yielded little information, because X-rays and sonar were not yet invented. Professor Price studied the object in the 1950s and published an article on it in 'Scientific American', and in the 1970s the first X-ray images are taken, leading to the 1974 book by de Solla Price. The mechanism quickly becomes an icon for history of technology, and scholars like Bromley, Light and Mangou develop competing interpretations in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 2005 a major high technology analysis of the object is launched by an international team of experts, which during years of imaging and analysis leads to new findings, which are published in the scholarly journal 'Nature': The Antikythera Mechanism is much more complex than anybody expected, but essentially -as expected- it is a mechanical device that models and predicts the celestial mechanics and -a hereto unknown feature- can be used to figure out when the antique Olympiads were held. The findings were published primarily in the academic journal 'Nature' but also in other scholarly journals. A journalist, Jo Merchant, wrote a full length book on the subject for the lay reader. Do go and look at it in the Archeological Museum in Athens if you ever get to Greece

But what was missing until late 2014 was serious and well rounded treatment of the now famous object as a cultural icon. What is its significance as a milestone of human civilization? And this is where the book under review fits in: Constantin Stikas, of Greek origin, a photographer by training, a journalist by temperament, but a horologist by passion, has been the engine behind various journalistic ventures dealing with horology both in Greece and on a global scale.

Clearly he was the person who had the connections, the motivation, and the skillset to put together our era's most comprehensive book on the Antikythera Mechanism. Fortunately he also got the cooperation of Hublot, a Swiss luxury watchmaking brand, which recreated a miniature interpretation of the Antikythera mechanism in wristwatch format. The book under review is a weighty project, both intellectually and on a weight scale. Stikas has convinced 30 experts in various fields, from around the world to talk to him about the Antikythera story. Of course I am not familiar with all 30 authors, but I recognize about a dozen of them, and those are all thoughtful individual who had something to say, and are recognized leaders in their fields of specialization.

The book starts with a 40 page 'Album' section, containing all images of the book. This is followed by the main section of the book, the "contributions" of the 30 discussion partners of Stikas. The ideas and opinions expressed are those of his discussion partners, but the exact wording however is the result of the editing process. This is organized into five distinct, themed sections:

· Archeology and the Shipwreck (5 contributions)
· Research and Models (11 contributions by the involved scientists)
· Ancient Science and Modern Exhibitions (3 contributions)
· Horology (6 contributions)
· Educational Projects (2 contributions)

In addition the book features a detailed 'Timeline' (with 55 entries. 2 pages) and a superbly useful 'Index' of names and places.

The books are not cheap, given the nature of the subject the production cost could not be spread over a huge print run. But it is highly encouraging that there are still people to invest in the upfront costs of a thoughtfully put together major publication. Thank you to Constantin Stikas and his contributors and his production staff for doing their share in assuring that this unique building block of the technological history of mankind remains in our collective memory.

Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ, December 2015

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Bob Holmstrom

Registered User
Jun 12, 2009
I saw this review on January 3rd and at 3pm west coast time I ordered a copy from the provided Amazon link to the Greek source. At 5am on the 4th (11am Greek) I received confirmation that the book had shipped from Greece. The book was delivered here in Portland Oregon before 2pm on the 7th by FedX. Certainly cannot complain about the service! Total cost was $86. As Fortunat says, the book belongs in the collection of everyone with an interest in the Antikythera Mechanism.


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