How was the time told in the ancient world?

Aug 2019
6
India
#11
Thanks a lot for these explanations and for the blog link, they are very helpful! Love the concept of non-seven day week, makes so much more sense when I think about it. So they were aware of the concept of time but were not dependant on it. So an hour could have different durations in different seasons, then! Quite an imaginative concept.
 
Mar 2019
1,482
Kansas
#12
Thank you, I think I understand your point. So they had a rudimentary understanding of seasons, but may not have had a specific annual calendar? What is your idea about the time though?
They did have a pretty specific annual calendar. They needed to know when to plant, when to harvest when various feast days were due.

The most common process was watching the night sky. As various constellations made their appearance in the horizon it signaled certain events were due to occur.

For the Egyptians, the star Sirius was critical. When this star made an appearance at dawn they knew the time of the Nile flood was due.

On a more day to day situation, people can read time pretty accurately by the angle of the sun. Without a watch or other device with just a little practice you can tell the time within 30 minutes of the actual time.

Also no matter what time of year it is. It is easy to tell when noon is. Just put a stick in the ground. When its shadow points due south..........it is noon. Or if you are south of the equator.......due north.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,717
Sydney
#13
by the 13th century , the middle age city became an important political unit
run by the Burgess and the guilds , an iconic feature was the clock tower
it demonstrated the modernity of the city and chimed the hours , later the half hours too
this was used to regulate business and legal working hours

they grew to be very elaborate with figures appearing in a pageantry of color
and became a much loved artifact to this day
below is the 400th anniversary of Prague astronomical clock

 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
34,607
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#14
Also no matter what time of year it is. It is easy to tell when noon is. Just put a stick in the ground. When its shadow points due south..........it is noon. Or if you are south of the equator.......due north.
<nitpick>
That's not quite true close to the equator for most of the year due to the axial tilt of the Eartth.
</nitpick>
 
Mar 2019
1,482
Kansas
#15
<nitpick>
That's not quite true close to the equator for most of the year due to the axial tilt of the Eartth.
</nitpick>
I didn't want to over complicate the post. At or near the equator no one is going to need to use the stick system because there is very little variation in the length of day anyway.
 
Feb 2013
4,303
Coastal Florida
#16
So they had a rudimentary understanding of seasons, but may not have had a specific annual calendar? What is your idea about the time though?
Ancient Egyptian Sundial Discovered at Valley of the Kings

I think it's possible obelisks were essentially used as sundials as well. I mean, really, the large shadows cast by them would be hard to miss. But, I'm not sure there's any actual proof to confirm this.

Also, their understanding of seasons as they experienced them was far from rudimentary. Although brief, the following explanation of the Ancient Egyptian calendar demonstrates a significant degree of complexity and might be of interest. I believe the relief is from the Temple of Kom Ombo.

 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,717
Sydney
#17
As far as I can see most people lived at the rythm of the daily prayers
for Muslims it was the five required prayers sang from the minarets ( nowadays it's a CD player )
for Christians it was the bells ringing the liturgy of the hours ,
Matins , lauds ,prime , sext , none , vespers , compline

pre christian times the day was based on the sun light
dawn ,sunrise , noon , sunset , dusk
some variations were one hour before noon or one hour before sunset
a bit unprecise but olden days were quite cool about such tings

the Asian tradition divided the day in twelve hours as per the twelve horoscope signs
for military purpose an important one was the "hour of the Tiger "
from 3am to 5am ..........it was the time for a surprise attack
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,717
Sydney
#20
observing the sun cycle , burning candles with marks on them , sand timers , water-clock ,
team of monks praying, each set of prayers giving the timing of the next ones
this last one is surprisingly precise

and finally mechanical clocks around the years 1300-ish
probably with some Islamic influence from Al Jazari it fired the inventive mechanical spirit of Europe

city clocks were the uber technological marvel of the time and were a major bragging right
by the mid 14th century , if your city didn't have one , you were a hopeless yokel