A Fun Egyptian Portable Sundial

Saw this on a History Chanel show about ancient Egypt. Found an online reference.

It’s a pocket watch of a sundial.

Incredibly simple. Easy to make. For more polar latitudes you would need a ‘seasonal’ line at a bit of a diagonal across it, but hey, technical progress and all that ;-)

It’s basically a long L shaped bit of wood (or whatever). The short leg points up, and that end is pointed toward the sun. It casts a shadow on the long leg. A small plumb bob on the short leg lets you set it to level. At that point, the length of the shadow tells you the time. Near the equator, a single dot would be ‘close enough’ (or a fairly narrow ranging arc) for adjusting for seasons (as the sun wobbles 11 degrees or so each side of straight overhead). At the poles, it will be much more complicated as part of the time the sun is not there at all and at other times it just ‘takes laps’ overhead. In between, a fairly steeply angled line would let you seasonally adjust for the 23.44 degree tilt we have presently. (One could likely put edge marks that would give a pretty good idea of the date when used at rise / set or at high noon, when time, by inspection, could map the adjustment line to a date).

This all means that with a bit of wood, and a stone to mark it with, and maybe a small rock and some plant fiber, you can make a portable ‘watch’ for use when out in the woods. Nice. Very nice.

The picture has a couple of them:

Ancient Egyptian Sundials

Ancient Egyptian Sundials

The plumb bob vertical line is visible on the side of image B, even if the bob itself is not there.

Image is from this site:


There is also a very nice write-up about each of these instruments and drawings of how they are oriented to the sun.

Guess what I’m going to be making ;-)

One of them is made of green slate. Another of wood. Wonder if I could make a small metal one and put it on a wrist band ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to A Fun Egyptian Portable Sundial

  1. notpicasso says:

    Need to add separate numbers for DaylightSavings

  2. Chuckles says:

    To keep in touch with modern conventions you should surely modify it to adjust the temperature upwards every couple of months?

  3. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: Nice!…as the sun wobbles 11 degrees or so…, 11.5 degrees or so, to be more precise, that´s half of 23ª the Earth is inclined over the elliptic…and why our hearts point to one side in our chests….

  4. Pascvaks says:

    Should have know the Japanese got to Greece before the Swiss, and sold their patent to the Chinese too I’ll bet, or maybe the Chinese KGB just made a little pic of it and didn’t give the Japanese anything for their time and effort. The Star Gizmo is too small for most over 50. If these things ever end up in a grave someone opens in a few thousand years, wonder what they’ll think of? ;-)

  5. PaulID says:

    Maybe I will get one just to torment some poor archeologist :)

  6. @E.M. ” Wonder if I could make a small metal one and put it on a wrist band ;-)

    I have a funny idea that just might work…but because I think It might…I wanna run it by you first via email…because if I am on to something…it likely would be patent-able. So I will tell you what…

    I know you love a good challenge…if there is any thing of value in it…we donate it to charity.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Andrew Newberg:

    Email is written in the “donate” box on the right side. Just strip out the words that are there to foil bots harvesting addresses.

    I like the idea of having some such objects as ‘grave goods’… Maybe even toss in some statues of naked ladies so the future archaeologists can prattle on about “Goddess Worship” in our century ;-)

  8. It’s been a long few days…”Meet the Parents” literally…and I am Gaylord.

    And when I finally had time to check postings at 1:40 am…(we are in the same timezone…at least I am in my normal one, lol…and the Taco Bell ‘Mexi’ Fresh ….was not as fresh as advertised.

    Therefore this late night rambling is more to protect my sanity than justification of my need to be institutionalized…

    Not to cause undo suspicion…I happen to have “Crime of the Century” CD playing on my laptop…(yes ‘old school’…I bought the CD in 1986…So for someone of “My Generation”…that would be Old School…

    Thankfully, on this particular blog…I think I can take some poetic licenses in my attempt to say…I will contact your email…eventually. But I need to find 10-15 to put my thoughts together…but NOT tonight…

    One problem…I go to log onto YaHoo…to send an email…and the current Headline is…


    New symptom to address…


    (as the final track of the CD begins to play)

    I figure I better not attempt to contact you until the weekend is over…


    Lol…now lets check ur Alexa stats and see if you get a Keyword Spike!


  9. gabe says:

    man thats makes me want to build a sundial!

  10. gabe says:

    poop in ma pants

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