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Arts@Graham Lecture Series: “Measuring Time: The Ancient Egyptian Invention of the Clock”

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Online

Ancient Egyptian Pot and Carvings

In this lecture, Dr. Foy Scalf draws on objects from the collection of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute Museum to answer the question: who invented the clock and how did people tell time in ancient Egypt, particularly at night?

Around 1500 BC, a man named Amenemhet claims in his tomb biography that he invented a device for measuring the hours of the night, which may have included moving mechanical parts. Five hundred years before Amenemhet’s invention, ancient Egyptian priests were recording the relative positions of groups of stars in large diagonal charts that helped calculate the hour based on their position in the sky relative to each other. Foy will analyze time-keeping devices, including an “astronomical device” of King Tut, to reveal Egyptians’ conception of knowledge formation and scientific discovery. 

Download the pre-reading for the lecture 

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About the Presenter:

Foy Scalf is a Research Associate and the Head of Research Archives at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. He earned his Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago and his research focuses on ancient Egyptian religion and sacred scripture, language and linguistics, and the cultural contexts for textual transmission. At the Oriental Institute, Foy is dedicated to bringing the ancient world to the public through continuing education, outreach, and public scholarship. 

About the Oriental Institute Museum:

The Oriental Institute Museum is a world-renowned showcase for the history, art, and  archaeology of the ancient Middle East. The museum displays objects in permanent galleries devoted to ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and the ancient site of Megiddo, as well as rotating special exhibits.

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