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ANCIENT GREEK TECHNOLOGY in Katakolon Greece Museum


Greek technology overview

Renowned, and without doubt unrivalled to this day, is the contribution of the ancient Greeks to the field of Philosophy and the Fine Arts. Likewise familiar is their contribution to the field of Science. However, the technology of the ancient Greeks is relatively unknown just as is their incredible performance in this field. The present exhibition of ancient Greek technology includes approximately 250 reliable operating models of ancient Greek machines and inventions of the ancient Greek technological wonder (through research, study and construction by Kostas Kotsanas) which are permanently housed at the homonymous Museum of Ancient Greek Technology and the Museum of Ancient Greek Musical Instruments and Toys & Games operating in Katakolon under the auspices of the Μunicipality of Pyrgos, Greece.

The exhibits are accompanied by rich audio-visual material (in Greek and English), such as explanatory labels and giant posters with a lot of information, analytical diagrammes, photos and complete bibliographical references, while many of them are interactive. There are projecting stations with video and animation as well as documentaries in which the exhibitor explains the function and the use of the mechanisms.

The exhibition (categorised in thematic units) follows the modern educational perception in Pedagogic and Museum Education so that it acts multileveled as far as the greatness of ancient Greek technological thought and technique is concerned.

Many of the exhibits and the research onto which the constructions are based have appeared at international conferences and exhibitions, while occasionally realising exhibitions of the museum both in Greece and abroad.

The aim of the exhibition is to make the incredible technological achievements of the ancient Greeks known to visitors giving them the opportunity to learn that a) they had devised a “cinema” capable of presenting automatically the plot of a myth with moving picture and sound b) they had devised self-mobile vehicles (automobiles) with auto drive, a gearbox, hydraulic programmed valves and other complex components c) they had used operating robots with the purpose of serving them d) they had invented the forerunner of the steam engine e) they utilised complex yet accurate measuring instruments which permitted them to calculate the diametre of the earth and the sun-earth distance or even to open up tunnels, kilometers long, from both sides of a mountain e) they had conceived ingenious slot-machines f) they used complex elevating mechanisms to build extremely high constructions with only minimal manpower g) they had automatic clocks (or alarm clocks) which worked without interruption or human interference.

All this demonstrates that their technology had little reason to be envious of modern technology and had it not been for the political, economical and social factor, would have led to the Industrial Revolution, since the Hellenistic Era, with unpredictable consequences for humanity.

The periodic transportation of the exhibition (after invitation) to other areas (in Greece and abroad) will give both Greeks and foreigners the opportunity to admire the utterly unfamiliar aspect of the ancient Greek culture; their incredible technology.

The Museum of Ancient Greek Technology in Katakolon operates under the auspices of the Municipality of Pyrgos and includes approximately 200 reliably operating models of mechanisms and inventions of the ancient Greek wonder after research, study and construction by Kostas Kotsanas. It is the most reliable and plenary exhibition of its kind in the world.

The exhibits in Katakolon Greece are accompanied by rich audio-visual material such as, explanatory labels and giant posters with opulent information, analytical diagrams, photos and complete bibliographical references (in both Greek and English) while some of the exhibits are interactive. There are projecting stations with video and animation as well as documentaries in which the exhibitor explains the function and the use of the mechanisms. The exhibition (categorized in thematic units) follows the modern educational perception in Pedagogic and Museum Education so that it acts multi-leveled as far as the greatness of ancient Greek technological thought and technique are concerned, not only for all rungs of the educational community but also the wider public.

Many of the exhibits and study on which the constructions are based have been presented at international conventions and exhibitions, while periodic exhibitions of the museum have been realized in both Greece and abroad.

The aim of the exhibition is to familiarize the public with the unbelievable technological achievements of the ancient Greeks giving the visitor the opportunity to discover that the ancient Greeks had:

1. invented a “cinema” capable of presenting, automatically, the plot of a myth with moving picture and sound
2. devised (unfortunately, only as entertainment) automotive vehicles (automobiles) with automatic drive, a gear box, hydraulic programmed valves and other complex components
3. used operating robots with the purpose of serving them
4. invented the beginning of the steam engine
5. used complex yet accurate measuring instruments which permitted them to calculate the diameter of the Earth and the Sun-Earth distance or even to open up tunnels, kilometers long from both sides of a mountain
6. conceived ingenious slot machines
7. used complex elevating mechanisms to build extremely high constructions with only minimal manpower
8. had automatic clocks (and alarm clocks) which worked without interruption or human interference, etc.

Furthermore, this exhibition is another opportunity to vitiate the false views of some researchers about the allegedly lacking “technophilia” of the ancient Greeks and their abhorrence towards the “brutal” skills. For example, how surprised one feels when learning that the “aeolosphere” of Heron with the addition of a pulley, for the driving motion, (by one of his students or himself) would have led (if the political, economical and social conditions of the time and the intervention of the allegedly “practical” Romans had allowed) to the Industrial Revolution, 1500 years earlier, with unpredictable consequences for humanity.
The museum exhibits are categorized in units and the tour includes

1. the unit with 27 ancient Greek clocks where the clock of Ctesibius (a hydraulic wonder) prevails
2. the unit with the amazing “magical” automatics of the Alexandrian engineers and the imposing human size “automatic maid”, the first operating robot in history
3. the unit with static and mobile automatic theatres of Heron (the “television” and the automatic “puppet theatre” of the ancient Greeks, respectively)
4. the unit with the inventions of Archimedes (the most significant scientist of all ages)
5. the unit with the impressive telecommunication of the ancient Greeks as well as their cryptographic methods
6. the unit with the ancient Greek agricultural, textile and athletic technology with the impressive “loom of Penelope” and the “hysplex”, i.e. the starting mechanism which prevented the false start of the athletes (both in actual size)
7. the unit with the construction methods of the ancient Greek architectural wonder where each type of crane is most impressive
8. the unit with the ancillary mechanisms of the ancient Greek theatre (”Deus ex machine”, “rotating prismatic constructions”, etc.)
9. the unit with the measuring instruments, tools and machines of the ancient Greeks
10. the unit with their hydraulic and agricultural technology
11. the unit with the ancient Greek siege technology (their “armored vehicles” and “artillery”) such as, the helepolis of Epimachos, the tortoise and borer of Diades, the polybolos catapult of Dionysius, etc.
12. the unit with the ancient Greek nautical technology where the historical evolution of the Greek ship is presented (e.g. the dugout boat, the papyrella, the holkas, the pentecounter, the bireme, the trireme, etc.).

About Konstantinos Kotsanas

BIOGRAPHY

Konstantinos Kotsanas was born in 1963 in Aigeira, Achaia. He studied in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Patras where he graduated in 1986. Since 1991, he has been working as a permanent teacher in the Secondary Education (and since 2003, as Director at the Second Chance School in Pyrgos).

Since 1990, he has been occupied with the study of Ancient Greek Culture and particularly with research in the field of Ancient Greek Technology and the construction of models. A lot of his research, studies and reconstructions that concern Ancient Greek Technology have been presented at International Conferences and Exhibitions with exceptional success.

Since 1996, in the framework of the teaching of Technology in High School, he has dealt with the research, study and reconstruction of operating models of mechanisms and inventions of man from the prehistoric, ancient Greek, pre-industrial and modern age. In September 2002, with the initiative of the Filekpaideftiki Company, he presented the exhibition (with reconstructions of mechanisms – the work of his students) “Technological Constructions by the High School of Krestena” in the Arcade Book Gallery with outstanding success in the sensitisation of teachers in the didactics of Technology.

Since 2004, with teams of educatees from the Second Chance School of Pyrgos, he has dealt with school research – construction and has participated in the Institution of Technology and Research competitions, receiving much praise and awards.

In 2005, he set up, at his own expense, the exhibition of Ancient Greek Technology which is permanently housed at the homonymous museum of ancient Greek technology operating in Katakolon Greece under the auspices of the municipality of Pyrgos, Greece, attracting both Greek and foreign visitors. He has realised several exhibitions with certain of the exhibits such as in a) in the exhibition centre of the Lanitis Foundation in Limassol, Cyprus under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Cyprus Technological University and the Evagoras and Kathleen Lanitis Foundation, b) in the SPAP Conference Centre Z Department for Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Ancient Olympia with the support of the Ministry of Culture and c) the Conference Centre of the University of Patras with the support of the University and .the Prefecture of Achaia, d) the Municipal Market of Pyrgos (archaeological museum) under the auspices of the Prefecture of Ilia, etc.

He has written three books concerning ancient Greek technology.

  1. Exhibition of Ancient Greek Technology (exhibit guide), University of Patras, Patras, 2007.
  2. Ancient Greek Technology, self-edition, Patras, 2008, (ISBN: 978-960-930859-5).
  3. Familiar and Unfamiliar Aspects of Ancient Greek Technology, University of Patras, Patras, 2007, (ISBN: 978-9963-9270-2-9).

He is a member of the Association of Ancient Greek Technology Studies while the Technical Chamber of Greece and has assigned him the study and reconstruction of significant mechanisms of antiquity.

In 2001, he set up the Krestena Theatre Group that dealt with various theatre genres (classical theatre, puppet theatre, shadow theatre, etc.). Leading creations of the team were a) “The revival of Heraia”, b) “The revival of the ancient pentathlon” in the Ancient Stadium of Olympia that was filmed twice by the German public television channel ARD within the framework of a series of documentaries and c) the shadow theatre tetralogy (“Karagiozis in ancient Greece”, ” Karagiozis, the ancient Olympic Champion”, “Karagiozis, the ancient philosopher” and “Karagiozis, the hierophant”) which were awarded 1st prize in four consecutive “Greek Shadow Theatre Competitions” organised by the Municipality of Patras in 2002, in 2004, in 2006 and in 2008.


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