Amazing Ancient Inventions – Part 1

3.2 Clocks

A clock is an instrument used to indicate, keep, and co-ordinate time.

The clock is one of the oldest human inventions, meeting the need to consistently measure intervals of time shorter than the natural units: the day; the lunar month; and the year. Devices operating on several different physical processes have been used over the millennia, culminating in the clocks of today.

The earliest methods of time keeping were based on observing the sky.

In olden days time was told mostly by sundials.

The Sumerians of Mesopotamia, who is thought to have invented writing in the 4th century BC, based their numerical system on powers of 60 (instead of 100) subdivided into multiples of 10. It was from this system that Sumero-Babylonians developed the time system that we use today: each hour divided into 60 minutes, which are divided into 60 seconds. By the way, there are 31 556 926 seconds in a year.

The first mechanical timekeeping device was a water clock called a clepsydra, which was used from about 1500 b.c. through the Middle Ages (500-1350). Time was measured by the regulated flow of water.

A water clock is an ancient time-measuring apparatus by the amount of dripping water.

There are approximately two types of water clocks in term of how time is measured. One is a holed container filled with water that measures the time by dripping the water outside. It’s called “dripping water clock”. The other is a container (with no holes at the bottom) that measures the time by letting water drip inside. It’s called “filling water clock”.

The earliest water clock is a container with a mark rod (called “arrow” at that time) inside. The mark rod is supported by a boat-like device that keeps it afloat. When the water drips outside or inside the container, the mark rod sinks or rises accordingly, indicating the time. The container whose water drips out is a dripping water clock that’s called “sinking arrow clock”, and the container taking water inside is a filling water clock that’s called “rising arrow clock”. These two types are collectively called “arrow clocks”. There’s another type of water clock that measures the time by the weight of dripping water. It’s called “weight clock”. In addition, there’s hourglass that replaces water with sand.

Later developments of the clepsydra would drop a metal ball into a bowl upon the hour. One very elaborate clepsydra was constructed for Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) in a.d. 800: Upon the hour, it dropped a metal ball into a bowl.

Because of problems with water (it evaporated, froze, and eroded the surfaces of its container), a more accurate device was needed.

It is believed that the first completely mechanical clock was developed by a monk around 1275: The clock was driven by the slow pull of a falling weight that had to be reset to its starting position after several hours. The clocks in monasteries were among the first to be fitted as alarm clocks: striking mechanisms were added to the timekeeping devices so the monks would know when to ring the monastery bell.

Replica of an early 17th-century foliot-and-verge clock,
generously provided by Mike Helfrich

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  1. Gary Schoenung says

    Many of the “mysterious” accomplishments from our early recorded history were left over from an earlier age and simply taken advantage of and reused, sometimes for the original purpose and other times for something entirely different. The reason for that is because they didn’t have the slightest idea what to make of them either. This link is to a video I put together of a massive ancient irrigation system in South Africa covering hundreds of miles that was not reused, and there are presently no theories that I am aware of.

    I am looking forward to reading about any explanations for it.

  2. Elijah says

    I find the article shallow perpertrating and continuing fals concepts of 100 years ago. Breasted’s 4236bc is based on the date July 18 for Memphis when Thoth was on July 20 for 4245-4242bc and then July 19 for 4241-4238bc and July 18 for 4237-4234bc. However, shifting azimuth and shifting altitude from the sun was not accounted for and thats why Chicago’s Richard Parker in later encylclopedia made it quite clear that a Thoth 20 of 2782bc is to be revised to a Thoth 17 of 2770bc. If youre a Christian Hebrew adopted by Jesus you will then see how and why 2030bc July 17 is the true new year date which after Exodus became Persian Pamenot 1 after a 70-day absence of Sothis (May 8-July 17) that was 72-day at Ur (May 7-July 18) following Peleg’s death on May 6 which is why 365 days later Nahor Mes-Kalumdug and his (grand) son Haran (A-Kalumdug) poisoned themselves and four guards killing there 68 wives (exception Lot’s mother back in the city Harran preganant or nursing) to go to heaven to join Peleg as Christ the first leader into heaven. I shouldnt use the term Christ because christos comes from Xisuthros who is the spirit of Noah, and in true Genesis, Noah died on Christmas Eve almost 9 years after this suicide, and they claimed he was the Christ in heaven. The 365-day calendar did not exist before the Flood when years were 360 days. ALSO the word for 30-day “same-sized” months is civil month. A civil month is an artificial 30-day month.

  3. Chris Allan says

    If find it hard to reconcile the statement that the Egyptians could not build dams, but had no trouble building pyramids. Is it possible that a more advanced people lived on earth long ago, and were wiped out by some catastrophic event. All the old legends of flying machines etc. are just to detailed for them not to be based on actual events. Visitations by aliens is not necessarily the only explanation, an advanced people may have existed (Atlantis???) on earth in antiquity.

  4. Brenda Brown says

    Couldn’t it be that it was a little of both? I agree, nothings to say that early man didn’t know a lot more than we do today, and because of a major cataclysm, lost a large portion of their knowledge. I wonder if such an event took out a majority of our populace today, how many would know how to work with metals, make computers, build defence weapons, etc.? But at the same time, whose to say that some space race didn’t visit us in the ancient past and help us along? Why would that be so improbable? I think it’s highly likely.

  5. bill heaney says

    It is racism, no question about it, but is it wrong to think so? Using Occum’s Razor, the pyramids at Giza were built by people just like the one’s who live there now. If that is so, how did they lose their extraordinary building knowledge? There’s no modern building or monument in all of Egypt that can compare. It’s like they regressed. The inhabitants of the New World, in all of the Americas, didn’t have the wheel. Yet we are told they built the awesome pyramids attributed to them.
    The marvel regarding the cave art has nothing to do with the work itself, it is how they were able to do it in darkness. They find no carbon deposits on the ceilings in those caves with the extraordinary art. How is that possible?

    The recent archaeology find in Turkey, Gobekli Tepe[spelling?] is 12,000 years old, making the so-called Egyptian pyramids modern in comparison. Researchers have reported on finding petrified wood in and around the Giza monuments, hinting they are very much older, and modern dating has the Spinx much older.

    Ancient man was smart, but not all ancient men were as smart as we who read your books. That stone in Baalbek is proof that ancient man, the ones like those who live there now, could not have achieved that awesome skill. Look at that stone and explain it. Look at Nazca and explain how people without metal leveled those mountain tops. Come on, man, give me a break!

  6. says

    Interesting article. I look forward to more. . . . The prevalent and pernicious idea that our lowly caveman ancestors needed the godlike help of aliens to become “civilized” needs to be set aside. It isn’t provable. I believe civilization before the Cataclysm was, in some ways, more advanced than ours. By the way, I prefer “chronocentrism”–but either will work. Thank you.


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