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Ancient Egyptians Used Sundial Earlier Than Thought
March 20, 2013

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A group of scientists has found a really old sundial in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, and they say it's proof that the ancient Egyptians were using such a timekeeping device much earlier than has previously been assumed.

The team, led by Swiss researcher Susanne Bickel, found the flat piece of limestone, with 12 sections of a semicircle drawn on top and small dots in the middle of each section, on the floor of a workman's hut. The sundial dates to the 13th Century B.C., to the 19th dynasty, in Egypt's New Kingdom. Previously discovered sundials dated to about a thousand years later, to the Greco-Roman period, which began in 332 B.C. and lasted until A.D. 395.

The ostracon, as it is being termed because it is a limestone shape with inscriptions, also has a dent in the middle, where the style (the timekeeping device in the middle) would have been attached, so that its shadow could show the progress of the Sun throughout the sky during the day. In addition to the 12 sections marked out, researchers found smaller dots in the middle of each section; these, it is thought, were used to mark time more precisely.

The ostracon was one of several found in the workman's hut. Others contain inscriptions describing the work being done and illustrations of a deity.

Bickel's team have announced other noteworthy discoveries in the area, including a tomb containing two burials, one of which was deposited four centuries after the first.

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