Athens, February 21, 2017
Two exhibitions of ancient technology in Athens and Beijing
in collaboration with the China Museum of Science and Technology of Beijing
to mark the Year of Greek-Chinese Friendship
To celebrate the Year of Greek-Chinese Friendship, there will be an exchange of exhibitions between the Museum Herakleidon in Athens and the China Museum of Science and Technology (CMST) in Beijing. The Museum Herakleidon will present, in both its buildings (16 Herakleidon and 37 Ap. Pavlou, Thissio), the exhibition “Ancient Chinese Science and Technology” of the CMST from September 2017 through January 2018. Meanwhile, the CMST in Beijing will host, from October 2017 through March 2018, the exhibition “EUREKA. Science, Art and Technology of the Ancient Greeks”, organized by the Museum Herakleidon in collaboration with the Association of Ancient Greek Technology Studies (AAGTS) and with Mr. Theodosis P. Tasios, professor emeritus of the National Technical University of Athens, President of AAGTS, as scientific consultant.
The exhibition “Ancient Chinese Science and Technology” will introduce to the Greek public for the first time some of the remarkable technological achievements of the Chinese civilization, which is one of the most ancient. These achievements cover a broad scientific spectrum, from astronomy and navigation to weaving techniques, papermaking, printing, seismography, et al., and will be presented through the models of a variety of inventions. Moreover, visitors will have the unique opportunity to watch demonstrations of ancient Chinese weaving techniques, traditional methods of papermaking and printing, and others.
The exhibition “EUREKA. Science, Art and Technology of the Ancient Greeks” will present for the first time at the CMST in Beijing the most representative of the ancient Greek technological accomplishments in areas such as shipbuilding, mechanical engineering, communications, building, the arts, and others, through original models and visual materials. Significant among the exhibits will be the operational reproduction of the Antikythera Mechanism, at triple the size of the original, made of plexiglass, bronze and aluminum, which will be constructed specifically for the Museum Herakleidon, in collaboration with the research team of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the scientific counsel of professors Dr. Kyriakos Efstathios and Dr. John Seiradakis. Furthermore, the exhibition will include two reproductions of historical ancient Greek shipwrecks, courtesy of the Museum of Navigation and Marine Arts of the Aegean and the Municipality of Samos.
The exchange of the two exhibitions aims to strengthen the ties between the two nations through the mutual discovery and showcasing of the important cultural heritage of each. It is under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religion/Department of Research and Innovation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Sports. and the Greek-Chinese Chamber.
The China Science and Technology Museum (CMST) in Beijing, the most comprehensive museum of science and technology in China, opened in 1988. It is a large-scale science popularization facility for the implementation of the national strategy of invigorating the country through science and education, and the enhancement of the scientific literacy of the general public through interactive exhibitions, science popularization activities and educational programs. The footprint of the museum is 48,000 sq.m., with a total area of 102,000 sq.m., covering a significant area of the park “Olympic Green”, which was created for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, to highlight its motto “Green Olympics, Scientific Olympics and Olympics of Humanity”. It comprises five main thematic exhibitions (Science Paradise, The Glory of China, Science, Technology and Life, Explorations and Discoveries, Challenges and the Future). There is also a temporary exhibition area, as well as four special-effect theatres, lecture halls, a number of laboratories and classrooms, and other facilities. Composed of numerous building block-like concrete blocks that articulate with each other, the structure of the museum is made to look like a Lu Ban lock or “magic cube”, to symbolize science as an endless process of “unlocking” and “discovering” secrets.
The Museum Herakleidon has been bringing art, education, and culture to the general public since 2004. The inspiration comes from the founders Paul and Anna-Belinda Firos. During the first decade of its operation, the museum focused on the fine arts and organized exhibitions of the works of several important artists (M.C. Escher, Victor Vasarely, Carol Wax, Constantine Xenakis, Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch, Sol LeWitt, et al.). Today the museum has evolved into an interactive center for popularized science. Based on its philosophy of Science, Art, and Mathematics, it provides innovative educational programs for students, teachers and adults, as well as exhibitions of art and popularized science at its two buildings in Thissio (16 Herakleidon Str. and 37 Ap. Pavlou Str.).
The Association of Ancient Greek Technology Studies is a scientific association that was founded in 1993, with the goal of promoting scientific research and disseminating historical knowledge of the technological achievements of the Ancient Greeks up to and including Byzantium. It organizes, open to the public, scientific conferences, talks, book and film presentations, as well as visits to ancient sites with a technological interest and special seminars for various interested groups (teachers, students).
Chinese civilization, one of the most ancient in the world, has many remarkable achievements to offer in the area of the physical sciences and mechanical engineering. Chinese scientific discoveries and technological inventions cover almost the whole spectrum of the sciences, from mathematics, physics, mechanical engineering and astronomy, to geophysics, biology, botany, medicine, pharmaceutics, chemistry, et al. The ancient Chinese scientists were the first to observe the sunspots, they researched magnetic phenomena, but also calculated, as did the ancient Greeks, the value of π – the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. The compass, gunpowder, paper, moveable type, bronze and iron casting, the seismograph, crossbow, iron plowshare, wheelbarrow, and the stern rudder are some of the technological achievements of China.
The exhibition “Ancient Chinese Science and Technology” will present, for the first time in Greece, some of the most important Chinese inventions, in the following thematic units:
Astronomy and the measurement of time
The Chinese have always been great astronomers and skilled technicians of astronomical instruments. As early as the 16th century B.C., they were studying the comets, meteors, sunspots, constellations, the sun and the moon. Their calendar is considered a unique combination of the lunar and the Gregorian calendar.
Navigation and orientation
The compass, one of the most important inventions of the ancient Chinese civilization, was widely used for navigation as early as the Song (960-1279 A.D.) and the Yuan (1271-1368 A.D.) dynasties and spread to Asia and Europe in the 12th century, contributing decisively to the development of trade, finance and culture.
China was the first country in the world to practice sericulture systematically, producing silk 6.000-7.000 years ago. As early as the 16th cent. B.C., it developed innovative weaving methods and from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) through the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), the famous Chinese silk spread throughout Europe, indelibly marking world culture.
Papermaking and printing
Papermaking during the Han dynasty is one of the most important inventions of ancient Chinese civilization, as are the numerous printing techniques that were first developed in the 7th cent. A.D., subsequently spreading in Arabia and from there to Africa and Europe, forever changing the history of world culture.
The exhibition will also present models of various other important Chinese inventions, such as the first seismograph (132 A.D.), the first wheelbarrow for the transport of merchandise, which was constructed a century, approximately, before the equivalent European one, the ancient Chinese plow that first appeared 5000 years ago, and others.
“EUREKA. Science, art and technology of the Ancient Greeks”
In collaboration with the Association of Ancient Greek Technology Studies (AAGTS)
Scientific consultant: T.P. Tasios, Professor Emeritus of the National Technical University of Athens,
President of AAGTS
October 2017-March 2018
China Museum of Science and Technology in Beijing
The ancient Greeks had a special connection with technology, as recorded in mythology and the works of Homer. During prehistoric times, the Minoans were already building multi-level houses and the Mycenaeans had developed, among other technologies, that of draining lakes. In the 6th cent. B.C., the favorable influence of science on the until then empirical technology brought about rich results, such as the construction of large-scale public works (e.g. the Eupalinos tunnel) and the further development of shipbuilding and of metallurgy. The apex was during the Hellenistic period, with numerous inventions in the field of mechanical engineering, such as the two-piston pump, catapults, hydraulic clocks, the hydraulis (hydraulic organ), the automata of Philo and Hero, and, of course, the first analog simulator of the celestial movements, the Antikythera Mechanism.
Metals were the most precious of the natural materials. In particular copper (which, combined with tin resulted in the “krateroma”, the bronze of the ancients), but also the precious metals, such as silver that was being produced in Lavrio from approximately 3000 B.C.
From the multi-storey buildings in Akrotiri of Thira, to the bold vaults of the Mycenaeans and the glorious temples of the Classical period, building technology was especially developed by the ancient Greeks.
The works described are land improvement projects (e.g. the drainage of Lake Kopaida in the 14th cent. B.C.), huge tunnels (e.g. Eupalinos tunnel) and the Diolkos (the transport of ships over land along the length of the Isthmus of Corinth).
The Mycenaean penteconter, the “Samaina”, the Athenian trireme and the Byzantine dromon are characteristic types of large ships that ruled the Mediterranean.
Catapults and “Helepolis” (siege towers) are presented.
Important machines of the ancient Greeks are presented, such as large cranes, piston pumps, as well as the steam-powered sphere of Hero.
The arts and sports
Ancient Greek technology supported all human needs including the arts (e.g. hydraulis: hydraulic organ) and sports (e.g. hysplex: race starting mechanism).
Measuring and communications
Ancient Greek technology also supported a) science – offering measuring instruments (e.g. hydraulic clocks) but also b) communications (e.g. the visual telegraph).
During the Hellenistic period, the dream of the Greeks for automata descended from the sky to Earth. The exhibition includes several models of such automata.
The knowledge of the Greeks about astronomy during the Hellenistic period is embodied in the Antikythera Mechanism and is based on earlier studies, such as that of Autolycus (circa 300 B.C.) and his spherical astronomy, that of Hipparchus (190-120 B.C.) regarding the orbits of the planets and the moon eclipses and that of Meton (5th century B.C.).