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By EnbhaPublished 12 months ago 3 min read

Humans have been keeping track of time for millennia, and the ways in which we tell time have grown more and more sophisticated throughout history. From depending on the natural elements to keep time, to measuring billions of atomic vibrations, how we tell time has evolved in accuracy and appearance.

Before modern clocks, humans existing in ancient civilizations predominantly had to depend on natural elements to tell time. These elements of time telling included the sun, the moon, the stars, and on a longer scale seasons. The earliest clocks were shadow clocks invented by the Egyptians.

The Egyptians used Obelisks, constructed around 3,500 B.C. to tell time based on the shadow that the sun cast on the ground beneath them. They also used sundials, which were later adopted by the Greeks. The earliest known sundial was discovered in Egypt and dates back to approximately 1,500 B.C..

The sundial similarly measured time through the path of shadows created by the sun. There were two main flaws of shadow clocks: one; they were rendered practically useless at night or on overcast days. Two; they were unable to be kept in the home. The Egyptians were able to tell time at night based on other celestial bodies, like the path of star constellation, and the moon, however, these were not always completely accurate.

These early methods of time telling still were amazing examples of the ingenuity and prevalence of mathematical achievements at the time. A later invention sought to provide more accuracy, usability day and night, and the ability to exist in the home; the water clock, or the Clepsydra.

Originally invented by the Egyptians in about 1400 B.C.the Clepsydra was later adapted by the Greeks to include alarm clock systems. A water clock consists of “two containers of water, one higher than the other. Water traveled from the higher container to the lower container through a tube connecting the containers.

The containers had marks showing the water level, and the marks told the time”. These water clocks sometimes included a stick that would rise with the water to turn the hands on an attached clock face. In approximately 250 BC the greeks included a mechanism in which the water would rise and “eventually hit a mechanical bird that triggered an alarming whistle”.

Do you think the Greeks wanted to hit snooze on these early alarm clocks too? The water clock however also had inaccuracies due to the inconsistencies of water flow based on temperature and volume.

Other forms of early timekeeping include hourglasses and candles. Candle clocks were recorded as early as 520 A.D. China . The candle clocks would be marked with a notch for each hour, and the melting candle would measure the hours passed as it burned.

Sand hourglasses were unassumingly accurate due to the consistency in the flowing of sand grains as opposed to water. Starting around the 15th-century hourglasses were commonly used at sea as a means for sailors to tell time. Hourglasses are an ancient but timeless invention, you might even have one in your kitchen today.

If you’re willing to spare a minute to save some cash, then a battery-operated clock is right for you. Both quartz and battery-operated clocks can be found in a variety of designs to accommodate the style of any interior. With the turn towards digital timekeeping through the use of phones and smartwatches, wall clocks seem to be falling out of fashion. We believe the wall clock should be given the time of day (while also telling you the time of day). The wall clock isn’t only convenient, it also doubles as decor.

The wall clock has a sense of permanence; it is always in the same place, it cannot be lost, and it doesn’t have to be charged. It also prevents you from unnecessarily glancing at your phone and inviting unwanted distractions. We hope after reading the interesting history of clocks you’ll consider including this timeless piece of technology in your home.


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