Sundials and Garden Art
Sundials have been widely used by people beginning from
the earliest civilizations until the later part of the 19th century,
when the worlds time zones were established. Before this, people relied
exclusively on local solar time.
Sundials are loosely derived from obelisks and shadow clocks used by
humans earliest known civilizations to measure time. Obelisks, in their
most simple form, were used to indicate noon, thus allowing ancient
peoples to divide their days into morning and afternoon. Eventually
markers were drawn around the obelisks to indicate passing hours. Over
time, slightly more elaborate and accurate t-shaped shadow clocks were
used. These were oriented towards the east during morning hours, and
manually turned to the west to track afternoon hours.
Fairly common features found in ancient structures were vertically
mounted sundials against an outer building wall. These were fairly
simple to set up and could be seen from afar. These vertically oriented
sundials consisted of a metal gnomon, (or shadow casting indicator,) and
the sundial positions painted on or set in stone on the outer wall.
Unfortunately due to the cycle of seasons, these vertically mounted time
pieces would only work for a portion of the year.
Over time, more elaborately engineered and accurate time-telling devices
were conceived, such as equatorial sundials. Eventually, very precise
sundials known as heliochronometers were developed. Among the most
simple, yet accurate sundials are the equatorial bow sundials similar to
the armillary sundials seen on our site. Large scale versions of this
equatorial bow sundial shape are considered to be the most accurate
sundials ever created & can tell time accurately to within about one
minute. Similar equatorial bow sundials were used throughout France as a
way to keep trains running on schedule.
Current garden sundials revive old traditions by combining a numbered
disc with the shadow casting gnomon. These are designed to be set with
the dial oriented horizontally, yet still keep fairly accurate solar
time throughout the seasons. Today, garden sundials are used primarily
as ornamental pieces and are not considered accurate time-keeping
Choose below from a wide selection of disc sundials,
armillary sundials, gazing globes and garden art items.
Sundials and sundial bases can be used in many
settings. Sundials are traditionally found in gardens but can add an
interesting detail to interior and exterior environments.