Sun, Sand and Sundials

The concept of timekeeping is something that is essential to our daily lives. From scheduling appointments to planning trips, time is a key factor in how we organize our activities. However, the methods that we use to measure and track time have evolved greatly over the centuries. In ancient times, people did not have the luxury of digital clocks or even mechanical clocks. Instead, they used a variety of methods to measure time, many of which are quite fascinating.

One of the earliest forms of timekeeping in ancient civilizations was the use of sundials. Sundials are ancient timekeeping devices that use the position of the sun to determine the time of day. They consist of a flat surface with a pointer, or gnomon, that casts a shadow onto the surface. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow moves, indicating the time.

Sundials were used in many ancient civilizations, including Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. The earliest sundials were simple obelisks or pillars with a flat surface that displayed the time. As time went on, more complex sundials were developed, including portable sundials that could be carried around and used anywhere.

In addition to sundials, ancient civilizations also used water clocks or clepsydras to measure time. A water clock is a device that uses the flow of water to measure time. It consists of a container with a small hole at the bottom and markings to indicate the passage of time. As water flows out of the container, the level of water decreases, and the markings indicate how much time has passed.

Water clocks were used in ancient Egypt as early as 1500 BC. They were also used in China, Greece, and other ancient civilizations. Water clocks had the advantage of being able to measure time even at night, when sundials were not effective.

Another method of timekeeping used by ancient civilizations was the use of astronomical events. Many ancient cultures, such as the Mayans and the Egyptians, were skilled astronomers and used the movements of celestial bodies to mark the passage of time. For example, the Mayans developed a complex calendar system based on the movements of the sun, moon, and stars.

In addition to these methods, some ancient civilizations also used sand or hourglasses to measure time. These devices consist of two glass bulbs connected by a narrow neck, with sand flowing from one bulb to the other. As the sand flows, it measures a certain amount of time. Hourglasses were used in ancient Greece and Rome, and they were also used on ships to measure time at sea.

Overall, the ancient civilizations developed a variety of creative and innovative methods to measure and track time. From sundials to water clocks to astronomical events, they used whatever means they had available to them to keep track of the passage of time. These methods may not be as accurate or precise as the clocks we use today, but they were a crucial step in the development of timekeeping devices.

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