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This 200-Year-Old Mechanical Caterpillar Does Everything But Turn Into a Butterfly

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Robots are so commonplace now that we use them to entertain kids at amusement parks. But even though modern technology has given us artificial lifeforms that can walk, talk, and even fly, there’s still something utterly fascinating about pre-electronic mechanical automatons like this Vers de Soie caterpillar dating back to 1820.

It’s almost 200 years old and despite being so small you’d think there was no room for gears or other mechanisms, it can still crawl across a flat surface, writhing and undulating like the real thing. The creation is attributed to Henri Maillardet who is thought to have designed and built it in Switzerland, presumably taking advantage of the country’s history and expertise in watchmaking.


And unlike other antique automatons that reveal their age through extensive wear and tear, this bejewelled gold and enamel creation sparkles and shines as bright as the day it was first wound. And that’s probably part of the reason the Vers de Soie recently sold at auction for over $415,000.


[Worldtempus via Neatorama via Richard Kadrey]