Timekeeping in an ancient Egyptian temple
The civilization of ancient Egypt lasted for over three thousand years. During this time there were many changes in logo2terms of what the ancient Egyptians believed in, and how they lived their lives. However, many aspects of the basic culture, religion, and artistic style of ancient Egypt remained the same
Egyptians clocks were much different from the current ones. There were two types of clocks in Ancient Egypt—a water clock and a sundial. A water clock was complicated, It is a little stand with a pot on the top of the stand and a pot at the bottom of the stand. The pot at the top of the stand had a hole drilled in the side. This pot was then filled with water and the water would flow out of the top pot down to the bottom pot. When the water was at a certain level, it was a certain time. The only disadvantage to the water clock was that you had to keep refilling it.
The sundial was basically a circle with numbers written around it with a little stick in the middle. When the stick’s shadow fell at a certain number, it was that time.
The advantage the water clock had over the sundial was you couldn’t use the sundial at night and the water clock you could.
The Hour Watcher
Mehetra was a young priestess in an ancient Egyptian temple. She had trained for years to become a priestess, and took her position very seriously. Mehetra’s main responsibility was to help another priestess in everyday matters. She waterclockalso participated in the regular temple festivals. In festivals, Mehetra would follow the priestess, chanting and shaking her sistrum. When Mehetra was not busy, she liked to watch other people go about their duties in the temple. There was one priest in particular who Mehetra liked to follow. His name was Amenemopet. Amenemopet was the ‘Wenuty’ (‘hour-watcher’) priest. He was in charge of making sure that temple rituals were performed on time during the day, night and throughout the year. During the day, Amenemopet watched the sun. He worked out what time of day it was by looking at the sun’s position in the sky. Ordinary people worked out the time of day in the same way, but they had less experience and training than Amenemopet. At night, Amenemopet carefully watched the water clock. As the evening fell, the clock was filled with water. During the night, the water dripped out a hole in the bottom. Amenemopet checked the water level during the night to work out when to perform nightly rituals.
One day, Mehetra met Amenemopet walking across the courtyard of the temple.
When Mehetra greeted Amenemopet, he looked startled. ‘The world is in chaos’, he said. ‘The stars and the earth are moving against each other. Sopdet has risen, but it is not yet the first month of the flood season.’
Amenemopet shook his head. He pointed to the wall where Mehetra saw a list carved into the wall in hieroglyphs. ‘This calendar keeps track of all the days throughout the year. It tells me that it is not yet time for the New Year festival. But the star Sopdet has risen, and the flood is coming. I must consult the high priest’ ‘Follow me!’ he said to Mehetra. MehetraAmenemopet raced through
the rooms of the temple. He stopped in front of a carved wall and pointed to a list of cartouches. ‘This problem was first noticed when they were alive,’ he pointed to a line of cartouches. ‘That was many years ago, and the problem is only getting worse.’
Amenemopet shook his head again. Then, he turned to Mehetra and said, ‘Go now, child. I must be alone to think…’ With that, Amenemopet turned and walked away. Mehetra studied the wall in front of her. Each cartouche contained the name of a pharaoh. Did this problem with the calendar really mean that the world was falling into chaos?
Then, Mehetra’s eye fell upon a clear carving of a ‘shen’ sign. The shen stood for eternity. It had been carved into the wall to show that Egypt would continue forever. Mehetra knew that the priests would work out the problem so that the heavens and the calendar on the temple wall were in harmony. Mehetra turned away from the wall and walked out into the temple courtyard. The sun was shining down brightly. As Mehetra began to do her duties, she wondered if Amenemopet would know what was happening the next time she saw him.
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