Clocks In Ancient History

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We’ve already written about the history of alarm clocks, but what about the history of clocks in general?

Clocks are amazing tools with a long, rich history dating back to the ancient world.

The Sundial: The Earliest Form of Clock?

The Sundial: The Earliest Form of Clock?

Many people think that the sundial is the eldest ancestor of the clock. The ancient Egyptians had time pieces that predated the Roman sundial. Approximately 4,000 years ago the Egyptians used clocks based upon star charts to measure time at night. During daylight hours they used something akin to the sundial. These “shadow clocks” used the shadow of a cross to mark the passage of time. Archeologists recovered instructions for making such a clock in the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I. He was in power around 1300 B.C.

In the 1500’s BC, Clepsyda came into use. Clepsyda are also called water clocks. A vessel with markings on it held water that slowly drained out of it. The relationship between the water level and the markings indicated the time. These water clocks were originally used at night and were particularly useful for priests who needed to conduct special rituals at certain times.

The use of Clepsyda spread across the world. Plato referenced a water clock in a writing dated at circa 360 BC. The Greeks and Chinese used Clepsyda. Around 270 BC, the Greeks built an elaborate Clepsyda that would announce the time with bells, puppets, and mechanical birds. The first Roman emperor was given a Clepsyda by Islamic engineers as a gift. This clock was so accurate that it ran for more than a century without requiring any adjustments (!). The Chinese refined the water clock and developed clocks that ran off mercury and even created the world’s first stopwatches.

The Mechanical Clock is often attributed with originating in Western Europe in the early 1300’s. Several centuries earlier, the Chinese had developed clocks that are now considered mechanical. The “Water-Driven Spherical Bird’s-Eye-View Map of the Heavens” was water powered, but it operated via mechanical means. This was developed in 723 AD.

After Mechanical Clocks another great advancement in clock technology came with the invention of the Online Alarm Clock. went online as the world’s first entire website devoted to being an internet-based clock that you can use in your web browser back in March 24th, 2006. Since this time literally dozens of copycat websites have gone online, trying to copy our original idea…but we remain more successful than all of them.

Most of us think of clocks as thoroughly modern devices.

But we hope we’ve shown, in this blog post, that this is not true.

Even when you look at our Online Clock, please note that what you’re looking at derives from basic ideas that stretch well back into ancient history.

We at are proud to be at the forefront of this unique combination of old and new.

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