How Was Time Measured in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, measuring time was an essential part of daily life. People needed to be able to track the seasons, measure the length of daylight hours, and keep track of planting and harvesting times. While the methods used in ancient times were not as precise as those used today, they were still effective in helping people measure time accurately.

The Sun and Moon
One of the earliest methods of measuring time was by observing the sun and moon. The movement of the sun across the sky during the day helped people determine when it was morning, noon, and evening. Similarly, observing the position of the moon in relation to certain stars at night helped people track lunar cycles.

The ancient Egyptians were one civilization that extensively studied celestial movements to measure time. They divided their day into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness, with each hour being marked by a sundial or water clock.

Water Clocks
Water clocks were another method used in ancient times to measure time. These clocks worked by using the flow of water through a small opening to mark off intervals of time. The most common type of water clock was a bowl-shaped container with markings on the inside that indicated different periods of time.

The Greeks were known for creating some of the most complex water clocks, which could indicate different lengths of days throughout the year.

Sand Clocks
Sand clocks, also called hourglasses, were developed around 800 AD in Europe and Asia. They consisted of two glass bulbs connected by a narrow neck that allowed sand to flow from one bulb to another at a constant rate. The amount of sand remaining in one bulb indicated how much time had passed.

Sand clocks were portable and easy to use, making them popular among sailors for measuring ship’s speed and determining how long they had been at sea.


In conclusion, while modern technology has made time measurement much more accurate, the methods used in ancient times were still effective for their purposes. Whether it was observing the movements of the sun and moon, using water clocks to measure time, or relying on sand clocks for portability, people found ways to accurately measure time and keep track of seasonal changes. Today, we can look back at these methods with appreciation for their ingenuity and contribution to our understanding of time.