Sundial ()

A sundial is the oldest way people measure time. It uses a shadow cast by the sun to tell the time.

How does it work?

Sundials have a flat plate with markings that show the time of day. It also has a tall piece to make a shadow. The plate is called the “dial,” and the tall piece is called a “gnomo”n. As the sun moves across the sky it casts a shadow that points to the correct time on the plate.

Cool sundials

The oldest sundial in the world was found in a worker’s hut in Egypt. The people who used it built tombs for Egyptian mummies.

In Florence, Italy there is a sundial with a half-lizard half-viper on the gnomon. It is outside of the Museo Galileo. The sundial tells time and tracks seasons. There are more sundials and cool time-telling devices inside the museum.

Along the Mosel River in Germany, there are many sundials in vineyards. The first one was made in 1620. It is high on the hill between the grapevines in Zeltinngen-Rachtig. You can still read the time on it today.

The biggest sundial in the world is in Zaragoza, Spain. It is in a city park and so big you may not realize it’s a sundial! The gnomon is as tall as a three-story building.

There are 12 different sundials you can read along the sundial trail at Horniman Gardens in England. One of them even uses your shadow to tell time!

Did you know?

Before there were clocks every town would set its own sundial. In one village it might be 2:00 p.m. while down the road it was 1:30 pm.

Make your own backyard sundial!

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for about 10 years. Currently, she is in the depths of dissertation research for an archaeology degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

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