About Ancient Time Clocks

By Paul Favors

  • Overview

    Our system of time kept by clocks is rooted in nature. Water clocks and sundials were two of the earliest timekeepers that led to the current state of our clocks today.
  • The Facts

    All clocks have two fundamental elements to their function. These are the equal recurring process and the proper way to determine it through a display. Digital clocks nowadays exhibit time easily. It's the same with wall clocks that have hands pointed to numbers, identifying a specific time. Present clocks function through electromagnetic waves processed with regulators. The early beginnings of the ancient clocks dictated how modern clocks execute today.
  • History

    The introduction of the first clock began with ancient astronomers noticing the promptness of the rising and setting of the sun. This phenomenon was known about 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, when Middle East and North African civilizations made the earliest clock to enhance their calendar. Communal activities, religion and the state and system of government required ancient clocks to proficiently systematize and prioritize daily tasks.


  • Geography

    Sun clocks are believed to have been initially used by the Sumerian culture but failed to pass their prior knowledge. Egyptians subsequently utilized the same by dividing the parts of the day at sunrise. As a result, obelisks, four-sided monuments, were built around 3500 BC. Another Egyptian invention known as the sundial emerged, used around 1500 BC. Water clocks in Egypt and Babylon become palpable around the 16th century. Early evidences of water clocks were also marked in other regions of the world, including India and China. Some scholars believe water clocks emerged in China as early as 4000 BC.
  • Water Clocks

    Water clocks were the primary timepieces that were not based on the examination and observation of celestial bodies. Water clocks were either rock vessels, cylindrical, bowl-shaped or metal bowl containers with sloping sides that permitted water to drip at a steady tempo coming from a small hole near the bottom. These clocks established hours during nighttime. As a result, they were also be used also to predict daytime. The determination of the time was based on the inside surfaces' markings, which measured the water levels as water arrived at certain passages of hours. Later, water clocks became more mechanized and accurate by adding pressure to provide more constant regulation of the water's drip.
  • Sun Clocks

    Sun clocks functioned through the movement of the sun across the sky by the use of obelisks, whose shadows created a sort of sundial that made it possible for people to split the day into morning and afternoon. The sundial functioned as a tool that partitioned the sunlit day into 10 parts and an additional 2 hours called the "twilight hours" in the morning and evening. During the morning, an elevated crossbar on the east end shed a moving shadow above the marks, while the long stems with five variably spaced marks were oriented east and west. Afternoon hours were measured by rotating the device into a reverse direction.
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