Sundials have been around for

Egyptian water clocks

This is part of an ongoing blog series called "Unwrapping the Secrets of Egypt." The idea is to uncover secrets and bring ancient knowledge to life once again. A more detailed description of the series is available on THEBLOG. Previously: Introduction, Rosetta Stone, Meet King Tut, Burial Site, King Tut's Death, Pharaoh's Curse, "Justine, " Mummification, Isis.

Imagine living in a world with no clocks, but having to preform daily rituals at specific times. How would you determine the time, and keep track of each individual hour as it passed? While this may appear to be a serious issue, it was not one that plagued Ancient Egyptian society.

Ancient Egyptians were excellent time keepers. They did not possess our modern clock technologies, but they were still able to measure each hour within a day, and at any given moment, could identify what time it was. This was possible through three different methods: Egyptians tracked both the sun and stars to measure time, and also utilized a system referred to as a water clock. THEMUSEUM currently has a water clock on display in Unwrapping Egypt.

The oldest known record of an Egyptian water clock was found in the tomb of a court official, Amenemhet, who lived during the sixteenth century, BC. The inscriptions in his tomb credit him as the creator of the device.

Water clocks were typically placed in temples and used by priests to determine the appropriate times to conduct religious rituals at night, as well as in courtrooms to track the length of speeches. They may also have been used in other public spaces as well for the general population.

The devices used an outflow model: water was poured into the basin, which had markings along the inside that indicated hours. The water would then slowly drip, at a constant rate, out of a small hole in the bottom of the basin. As the water level decreased, you could look at the indicators inside the water clock to determine how much time had passed.

Ancient Egyptians measured 12 hours per day, regardless of the season, so there were twelve indicators inside the basin of the water clock. Once all of the water had gone through, the basin had to be refilled. Improvements were made to the device by Ctesibius, a Greek inventor living in Alexandria during the Ptolemaic period. He changed the indicators in the inside of the water clock to reflect the difference in time depending on the seasons, and also fitted a pipe to the basin so that the water would pump back in after being drained, which meant it no longer had to be manually refilled. These small changes helped Ancient Egyptians tell time in a more precise manner.

Other devices that Ancient Egyptians used to keep time included sun dials and obelisks – which were often referred to as shadow clocks – as well as a system to track stars and other celestial bodies. Water clocks were quite different though because they could be used during both the night and day, and required less frequent observation.

Many other ancient civilizations also used water clocks to track time, including the Babylonians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. Their models were very similar to the Egyptian device that was used for thousands of years.

See also:
Source: www.themuseum.ca
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