How to Make an Ancient Egyptian Water Clock

Mirror image of bookcase.jpg

Water clocks, one of the first time-telling devices, first appeared in Ancient Egypt during the reign of King Amenhotep I around 1500 BCE. Most ancient Egyptian water clocks were outflow water clocks. These time-keepers consisted of a cylindrical vessel with sloped walls. Water escaped from a small hole in the center of the vessel's base and fell into a basin below. In "Ancient Egyptian Science: Calendars, Clocks and Astronomy," Marshall Clagett notes that equidistant horizontal lines marked cylindrical vessels' interior; these lines represented units of time. If you want to tell time like the Ancient Egyptians, follow these guidelines to create your own water clock.

  • 2 plastic yogurt containers
  • Waterproof marker
  • Ruler
  • Push pin
  • Duct tape
  • Wooden dowel
  • Modeling clay
  • Wood or sturdy cardboard base

1 Draw lines around the interior of one

Draw lines around the interior of one container; using a ruler as your guide, space the lines a quarter-inch apart. Make your marks with a waterproof marker to prevent bleeding.

2 Make a small hole

Make a small hole at the bottom of your marked container with a small push pin.

3 Secure the marked container

Secure the marked container to the upper area of your wooden dowel. Wrap duct tape around the container and dowel.

4 Secure the second

Secure the second, unmarked container to the lower area of the dowel. Position it directly under your first container so it can catch dripping water.

5 Mold

Mold modeling clay around the dowel's bottom and attach to the base.

  • To use your Ancient Egyptian water clock, block the hole in the upper container and fill with water. Unblock the hole and time how long it takes for the water to reach each of the container's lines. Use these measurements to keep time.