Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pneumantic chirping birds automaton by the ancient Greeks

Image of chirping birds automaton

The design of this piece is usually attributed to Hero of Alexandria, though the web site from which this comes attributes it to another great inventor form antiquity, Philo of

About the owl and bird automaton:

For the operation of the automaton, water from a spring was driven inside the upper airtight container forcing the air to leave through a pipe. Because the pipe-flute led to water, the oscillating wavelength produced a chirp with notes of different frequency. Then when the water level exceeded the curved siphon of the container, it emptied through it to the intermediate container, diverting a yoke to the side. This forced the built-in rotating shaft supporting the owl to turn towards the birds that then stopped chirping. When the water level exceeded the axial siphon of the intermediate container, it emptied through to the lower container, diverting the yoke towards its counterweight, which caused the owl to turn away from the birds that then began to sing again, etc.

This is quite a beautiful reproduction!

See more great inventions on this site about ancient Greek technology.

[ Thanks again, Thomas!]

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Blogger Tess said...

Love this. Been catching up on your blog. Are you coming to Maker Faire New York this year? I will be back in the basement, I think. I am doing a Greek toy theater that made me look at the Greek things in your blog. As usual, beautifully written and excellent photographs! Hope to see you in September.

August 13, 2013 at 1:33 AM  

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