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What Did We Do Before Clocks?

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A Brief History of Life Before Clocks

If you are like most people, you use clocks every single day, without exception. They are our life line to that thing called time, and they allow us to do many things. Firstly, they allow us to keep our jobs, by alerting us to when we need to leave home, and when we need to arrive at work. Secondly, they allow us to keep track of things; how long it took us to run a mile, what time we need to take the cake out of the oven—literally everything! Even Daylight Saving Time relies on clocks; clocks go forward, and clocks go back to keep us on track with the months. It is hard to imagine a place in time and history without clocks, but there was one.

Before Clocks: How Time Keeping Was Always Relevant

Since the early age of man, we have used many things to keep track of the days. Most prominent, before clocks were even a thought, were sun dials. A sun dial was a chart that had a number of carvings on it, in a circle, that could be used to tell the “time” of the day, how close to darkness the day was, what day of the week it was—they were used to tell a number of things. Sun dials were used in a very simple matter. Often they were built on stands, or pedestals. The triangular piece that stood up would act as a hand might on a clock face. As the day wound down, a shadow would pass over the face of the sun dial, created by the darkness of the setting sun. This would in turn shadow certain regions of the sun dial, which would then be used to “tell” the “time.”

Sands of Time: Hourglasses

Another common time piece, before the invention of the clock, was the hourglass; a figure eight shaped glass which would be filled with a measurement of sand. The section where the two halves of the glass met would be exceptionally thin so as to make the sand work its way slowly through the glass. The idea was that you could use the hourglass as a time keeping device. However, the sands that passed through these glass did not necessarily pass through in a predetermined amount of time, and often got stuck, making keeping time with an hourglass very difficult at times, and even very inaccurate to a great degree.

James Lawler is the author of WhenDoTheClocksGoForward.com, all of the dates times and information about when do the clocks go forward from 2012 to 2019 and beyond, including free email reminders for registered visitors.

 

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