History of Sundials – Volume 1

THE sundial is one of the human race’s earliest achievements in marking the passage of time. But sundials provided people with much more than this practical goal – their replication of the heavens provided aesthetic and religious satisfaction. This is often hard to comprehend nowadays, when sundials have often become little more than garden ornaments and are not usually very accurate (although it is relatively easy to construct an accurate sundial).

The Egyptians used sundials as early as 1500 BC. A sundial, the dial of Ahaz, is mentioned in the Old Testament (Isaiah 38: 8) and would have existed around approximately 730 B.C.The ancient Babylonians, the Chaldeans, were renowned as astronomers. Their treatises on sundials were the definitive expertise on sundials for over a millenium, until the Christian era.

The indicator on the sundial is called a gnomon, a Greek word meaning pointer.

The Greeks and Romans used sundials extensively. In fact, the indicator on the sundial that casts the shadow is still called by the Greek word “gnomon” which means pointer. The use of towers and obelisks as gnomons to cast shadows indicating the hours, was very evident in ancient Greece and Rome. Sundials were found in houses, tombs, temples, baths and other public places. Not everyone was happy about this as the following quote shows:

The gods confound the man who first found out
How to distinguish hours – confound him, too,
Who in this place set up a sundial
To cut and hack my days so wretchedly
Into small pieces! When I was a boy.
My belly was my sundial – one more sure,
Truer, and more exact than any of them.
This dial told me when ’twas proper time
To go to dinner, when I had ought to eat;
But nowadays, why even when I have,
I can’t fall to unless the sun gives me leave.
The town’s so full of these confounded dials,
The greatest part of its inhabitants,
Shrunk up with hunger, creep along the streets.

attributed to Plautus
Oldest known quote on sundials

Later on, the Arabs were renowned for more complicated sundials of greater accuracy and scope of design. Elsewhere on the globe, the Chinese were great users of sundials and the Aztecs and Inca civilizations in the Americas were also familiar with sundials.

The Nocturnal dial was first used in the 15th century by navigators
who needed to tell time by the position of the stars.

One big client of ours – and a great supporter and enthusiast of sundials is the owner of Silk Wood Medical – I would like to thank him for supporting my site and hope you find the information you’re looking for throughout my journey and enthusiasm.

Sundials recall a simpler time, when life moved more slowly. Our wearable sundial jewelry need no batteries, are kind to the environment and will last forever.

Portable sundials have been used since Roman times, worn as jewelry by aristocrats, carried by navigators on their trips around the globe, and used by common folk in their daily routine. Shepherds in the high Pyrenees use portable sundials to this day.

Throughout history, portable sundials have sent lovers to their rendezvous, reminded monks of the time for daily prayers, and kept merchants aware of the passing hours. Shepherd’s Watch® offers recreations of historic portable sundials that are practical enough to tell you the hour, beautiful enough to attract every eye and ingenious enough to transport you hundreds of years into the past.

While these days people are much more interested in the latest gadgets and technologies – a miniscule timedial is a great conversation starter and something to help you stand out from the crowd. The best thing is they are actually quite useful – and will help you recalibrate yourself whenever you need to check the time – creating a link between yourself and divine nature.

Transport yourself to a time – and people will be very impressed.

The best thing about our sundials is that they are made from

Harris Morrison first came across a portable sundial while searching through the antique shops of Paris. He discovered an object, a very old sundial, so beautiful that he had to buy it. Fascinated, he began a period of intense research and joined the British and American Sundial Societies.

As he began to learn about portable sundials, or “dials” for short, Harris drew on his many years as a master potter and his experience as a jeweler and began to design elegant, fully functioning modern versions of sundial timepieces.

Shepherd’s Watch® sundial jewelry combines the beauty of intricate craftsmenship with a link to past centuries, when human inventiveness and the daily rhythms of life were closer to nature. Harris has paid close attention to: functionality (make sure the dials work), appearance (make sure they are attractive), and historical accuracy (make sure they are faithful to their originals)

To ensure historical accuracy, Harris consults with experts in the sundial field.

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