Why the Ancient Egyptians Preferred Sundials to Clocks

From the earliest times, Egyptian people had been trying to find some way to tell the time. A simple idea of a sundial was used from 1500 BC until the 17th century. Sundials were based on the idea of a stationary object (a pointer or gnomon) and a scale of hours marked with numbers. The Sun travels across the sky; so the people can measure time by the position and length of the shadow of the stick.

There were no clocks in the contemporary sense of this word in ancient Egypt; so Egyptians used both sundials of various sizes and types, and water clocks. Water clocks were even more convenient, as they could be used in courtrooms or at night time, while sundials could be used only in broad daylight. There were either tall obelisks situated in key locations of Egyptian cities and towns, or larger sundial clocks for public use. With the lapse of time, Egyptians invented even portable sundials. Such clocks had always been a reliable method of telling the time. They were so accurate that later on they were used to set the time even on the wristwatches that had stopped.

Egyptians kept track not only of passing hours, but also of days, months and years. According to their calendar, there were twelve months of thirty days or three weeks each. Besides, there were five extra days between the beginning of the first month and the end of the last one. The year started on the first day of the flooding stage, while the astronomical year was signified with the appearance of the Sirius in the sky before sunrise. The old Egyptian calendar was used throughout antiquity and even the middle ages due to its absolute regularity.

It is interesting that some people still like to have Egyptian sundials as a detail of garden architecture rather than a facility of keeping time. It is not difficult to build them using various templates available online or in books. 

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