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Measuring Time Through The Ages

 An old sundial

Have you ever wondered how and why people began to measure time? Today we are very aware of hours and minutes, days and years. There are clocks and calendars on the wall, watches on our arms and even the TV and computer have clocks.

Why did it become important to know the time of day? Why did people want to know what day or month it was? People who lived thousands of years ago began to measure time, but why? They had no schools and no business meetings. Why would time have any interest for them? Even people in prehistoric times are known to have measured time with markings on the wall and holes cut in sticks and bones.

Perhaps the cavemen were trying to keep track of the movement of dinosaurs. Being able to tell when that big T-Rex was due through the forest would be a good thing to know.

Although we do not know a great deal about the earliest timekeepers, these people left clues for us. Archaeologists have found paintings, bones, and stone tablets that show how involved different cultures were in recording the passage of hours, days, and years.

The oldest civilizations used the movement of the sun, stars, and moon to help them develop an understanding of time. They were able to determine the seasons and learned when weather would be changing. This helped them decide whether they should plant seeds or prepare for ice and snow.

The Sumerians developed a calendar 5000 years ago.  The months of their calendar had 30 days. Their days had 12 “hours” instead of 24 like ours. An hour of school would last a long time but think of how much free time there was in an hour of play.

 Stonehenge was constructed more than 40 centuries ago. Did you know the people used it to keep track of time, seasons, and changes in the moon? Researchers believe that Stonehenge was a very important part of time measurement, but today no one knows exactly how it worked.
Clocks were developed about 5000 years ago in the Middle East and North Africa. Some of the first clocks used were obelisks. These are tall, narrow columns that could cast long shadows. The length of the shadow could be used to calculate the time of day. 

Sundials also use shadows to tell time. Think of these inventions as being the first portable clocks. Today, people still use sundials and many people like use them in gardens for decoration. Sundials are useful but they do not just tell you that it is 3:22 pm. You have to point them in the right direction first and know how to interpret the shadow on the dial.

Hourglasses and water clocks also have been used to tell time. The hourglass is still used more commonly you see the 3 minute egg timer used by cooks. A water clock used dripping water instead of sand to measure the passage of time. This would be fine in warm weather, but what happened when it was cold and the water would freeze?

Time marched on and soon wind up alarm clocks, long case clocks, grandfather clocks and mantle clocks joined the list of time telling devices. Pocket watches and wristwatches became fashionable over the years and were once very expensive.

It is handy to have a small watch on your arm to tell what time it is. Sometimes not having a watch can give you an excuse for being late. Of course, if you are going to a party or on vacation you want very much to be on time.

Digital clocks are now as common as the clocks that have hands that point to the hours and minutes. A digital clock displays the time for you and all you do is read the numbers. The most precise timepiece is an atomic clock, which can now be bought for home use. There are large atomic clocks in the US and the UK that are used to keep official track of time.

This is an original news article © The Kids Window

Whatever your age, if you can tell the time you may love one of our children's wall clocks or desktop clocks. Some of them can have your name written on them!

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