One of the world's oldest sun dial dug up in Kings' Valley

Mar 15, 2013
Significant find: After thousands of years the Egyptian sun dial was brought back to light. Credit: University of Basel

During archaeological excavations in the Kings' Valley in Upper Egypt a team of researchers from the University of Basel found one of the world's oldest ancient Egyptian sun dials. The team of the Egyptological Seminar under the direction of Prof. Susanne Bickel made the significant discovery while clearing the entrance to one of the tombs.

During this year's excavations the researchers found a flattened piece of limestone (so-called Ostracon) on which a semicircle in black color had been drawn. The semicircle is divided into twelve sections of about 15 degrees each. A dent in the middle of the approximately 16 centimeter long horizontal baseline served to insert a wooden or metal bolt that would cast a shadow to show the hours of the day. Small dots in the middle of each section were used for even more detailed time measuring.

The sun dial was found in an area of stone huts that were used in the 13th century BC to house the men working at the construction of the graves. The sun dial was possibly used to measure their work hours. However, the division of the sun path into hours also played a crucial role in the so-called netherworld guides that were drawn onto the walls of the royal tombs. These guides are illustrated texts that chronologically describe the nightly progression of the sun-god through the underworld. Thus, the sun dial could also have served to further visualize this phenomenon.

During this year's in cooperation with the Egyptian authorities and with the help of students of the University of Basel over 500 mostly fragmentary objects that had been recovered in former seasons were documented and prepared for further scientific examination. This also includes all the material of the lower strata of tomb KV 64 found in 2012. Inside the roughly 3500 year old tomb Basel researchers had discovered a that was holding the mummy of a woman named Nehemes-Bastet.

Explore further: Earliest ancestor of land herbivores discovered

Related Stories

57 ancient tombs with mummies unearthed in Egypt

May 23, 2010

(AP) -- Archeologists have unearthed 57 ancient Egyptian tombs, most of which hold an ornately painted wooden sarcophagus with a mummy inside, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said Sunday.

Door to afterlife from ancient Egyptian tomb found

Mar 29, 2010

(AP) -- Archaeologists have unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor, the Egyptian antiquities authority said Monday.

Egypt unveils pharaonic 'brain drain' bed

Mar 19, 2009

Egyptian antiquities authorities on Thursday revealed an ancient pharaonic embalming bed unearthed from a mysterious tomb near Luxor used to prepare bodies for mummification more than 3,000 years ago.

Egypt unveils discovery of 4,300-year-old tombs

Jul 08, 2010

Egyptian archaeologists on Thursday unveiled a newly-unearthed double tomb with vivid wall paintings in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara near Cairo, saying it could be the start for uncovering a vast cemetery ...

Recommended for you

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

Apr 14, 2014

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tadchem
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2013
From the aspect ratio of the hemi-ellipse and the location of the find (~25° N), it would appear this sundial was meant to be hung on a south-facing wall with the hole for mounting the gnomon at the top.
nkalanaga
not rated yet Mar 15, 2013
Possibly the gnomon was also used for hanging it? Put a rod in the wall, and hang the rock by the hole?
baudrunner
1 / 5 (4) Mar 15, 2013
Time-keeping is probably one of the reasons that the baseline of the pyramids' north-south orientation is lined up perfectly with true north. This makes it possible to carry around a portable sundial. Just line up the base of the dial with the east-west baseline of a pyramid and you've got the time of day. The Mayan pyramids have parallel baselines to the Egyptian ones.
yep
1 / 5 (4) Mar 16, 2013
Indiana Jones could do something with that!
KAP55
not rated yet Mar 18, 2013
What's most interesting is that division of the day into 12 hours goes back this far at least.

More news stories

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

Scientists say that the Ebola (ee-BOH'-lah) virus that has killed scores of people this year in Guinea (GIH'-nee) is a new strain. That means it did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations.