Archaeologists discover one of the oldest sundials in the world

3, 000-year-old chalkboard with hour lines lay in the valley of the kings under a pile of stones

The Millennial Sundial from the Valley of the Kings © University of Basel
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In the Valley of the Kings archaeologists have discovered one of the oldest sundials in the world. The flat stone tablet with its recorded hour lines lay buried in the rubble between two royal tombs. More than 3, 000 years ago, it was probably the huts of the workers who created the tombs of the pharaohs. Whether the sundial helped them to measure their working hours or whether they were part of the grave equipment was still unclear, according to researchers at the University of Basel.

The Valley of the Kings was one of the most important burial sites for the ancient Egyptian rulers of the New Kingdom. There Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, but there are still found and excavated new graves to this day. Archaeologists from the University of Basel have also been doing research in this area for several years. During this year's dig season, she made a special find just as they were about to uncover a tomb:

They encountered a flattened piece of limestone on which a semicircle with twelve divisions of approximately 15 degrees was recorded in black. In the middle of the approximately 16 centimeters long horizontal baseline a depression was visible. It probably served to attach a wooden or metal pin whose shadow indicated the hours, as the researchers report. Small dots in the middle of each hour angle served an even finer time measurement.

Worker clock or timer for the sun god?

Who used this sundial at that time, is not yet clear. It lay in front of the royal tombs in the area of ​​some stone huts, where probably lived in the 13th century BC, workers who built at the graves. The sundial may have been used to measure their working hours. Theoretically, however, it would also be possible for the clock to belong to one of the graves, the archaeologists say. Because so-called hereafter guides are often recorded on the walls of the royal tombs. These underworld books are illustrated texts that describe the nightly journey of the sun god through the underworld and at the same time provide accurate time information. It could therefore be that the sundial should serve to provide the Sun God with a timepiece tool.

In addition to the sundial, the archaeologists have also discovered numerous potsherds, vessels, clothing remains and even a previously unknown female mummy during their excavations in the Valley of the Kings. She lay in a sarcophagus in the tomb KV64 and is more than 3, 000 years old. Inscriptions on the coffin indicate that the dead woman was called Nehemes-Bastet and bore the title "Singer of Amun" - and thus was a kind of priestess. It was from the time of the 22nd Dynasty and probably belonged to the family of one of the influential Amun priests of that time. In contrast to many other graves in the Valley of the Kings, their rock chamber escaped the grave holes and is therefore still very well preserved. display

(University of Basel, 14.03.2013 - NPO)