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How did people tell time before clocks?

Posted by ilan srulovicz on

Beginning in prehistoric days, humankind started reading the elements around them in order to measure time. Ancient humans used the power of simple observation, deductive reasoning, and the earth itself to complete their time tracking goals. These observations were all about reading the stars high up in the heavens, the changes in the seasons, and also by the presence of day and night. Humans learned to come up with very primitive methods to determine time. Telling time made it possible for prehistoric man to be able to plan any type of nomadic activity, any farming, sacred kind of feasts, or anything else that was important to him.

One of the earliest of all devices to tell time was the sundial. The sundial is looked on as being a form of sun-powered clock. Ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians did have this knowledge, but when the culture died, knowledge was lost along with many other aspects of the civilization unfortunately. One thing that is known is this. It was the ancient Egyptians who did come up with a form of system to divide the day up into parts. These parts were a whole lot like hours in description. The Egyptians constructed obelisks, which were four-sided and well tapered monuments, and they were geographically located in certain places. These obelisks were believed to have been constructed around 3500 BC and a shadow would be cast by the obelisk as the sun made it’s way across the sky. This obelisk would be marked out in certain sections to see the two halves of the day. There was another more advanced shadow clock or sundial in use by the ancient Egyptians around 1500 BC. This shadow clock or sundial permitted one to measure the passage of hours within a day.

Another very early form of clock to tell the time was the water clock. The water clock was used by the ancient Greeks. It is considered to be one of the earliest forms of timekeeping devices that didn’t take use the observance of the celestial bodies to help calculate the passage of time. It is believed that the ancient Greeks started using these early timekeeping devices around 325 BC. These clocks were mainly used to determine the hours of nighttime, but they may also have been used for daylight hours as well.

The hourglass is another form of early timekeeping device that was used in ancient times. The hourglass was constructed from two separate glass bulbs that were rounded. These two glass bulbs were connected by a neck of narrow glass that was situated between the bulbs. This hourglass contained particles of sand within it, and when it was turned upside down, a measured amount of sand particles would drop down from the top part of the glass to the bottom part of the glass. The hourglass of ancient times is said to be the early predecessor for the egg timer of modern times. Telling time before clocks did take place. It was just done in a different way from how it is done today.

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