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Swiss ingenuity at its best: How the Hublot team is searching for missing parts of the Antikythera mechanism using Metrohm equipment for metal detection

Underwater archaeology is a tricky business. How are you going to find metal artifacts below the sea floor?

A research team sponsored by the Swiss watchmaker Hublot has found a solution for this: They have equipped their underwater drones with small, mobile Metrohm instruments to detect dissolved metal salts that are indicative of the presence of bronze. This allows the researchers to investigate large seafloor areas and, hopefully, find more artifacts that shed light on the ancient Greeks' ingenuity: the missing parts of the famous Antikythera mechanism.

Underwater metal detection: How it works

The Hublot team use small, spherical underwater drones – called Bubblots – to investigate the sea floor. These Bubblots aspire water that is then analyzed by Metrohm VA (voltammetry) analyzers on board. If higher metal salt concentrations are detected, it is safe to assume that there must be some metal object nearby under the floor.

With this method, the Hublot team can efficiently scan the sea floor and identify areas worth having a closer look at. The main goal, of course, would be to find missing parts of the Antikythera mechanism.

Learn more about voltammetry

The Antikythera mechanism: What the researchers are searching for

Reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism

Described by modern-day archaeologists and historians as the first analog computer, the Antikythera mechanism was a device used to predict astronomical events (eclipses, orbit of the moon, and position of stars).

The mechanism was retrieved from a shipwreck found off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901. Since then, researchers have tried to get to the bottom of this device's mysteries. Since only fragments of the mechanism have been found, retrieving the missing pieces of the mechanism would be a scientific sensation.

Read more about the mechanism on Wikipedia 

Read more about the Hublot's Antikythera project