Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, Vol 3, No 2 (2017)

Astronomical Time versus Social Time: A Case Study from Ancient Egypt

Rita Gautschy
Issued Date: 24 Jan 2018


The archaeological context of a recently unearthed sundial from the Egyptian Valley of the Kings suggests that the object was used to define the work hours of labourers engaged in building tombs. An analysis of the sundial enables us to establish its precision and the scientific rationale on which the measurement of time is based. This allows us to gain insights into the role of astronomical time in Egypt c. 1200 BC. Administrative texts of the same period found nearby offer additional evidence on the everyday life of the workmen and the importance of social time in regulating their activities. This provides us with a unique opportunity to compare astronomical with social time and ponder the arising implications from the convergence or divergence of the two.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/jsa.34687


Bickel, S. and R. Gautschy, 2014. “Eine ramessidische Sonnenuhr im Tal der Könige”. Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 141 (1): 3–14.

Bickel, S. and E. Paulin-Grothe, 2013. “The Valley of the Kings: Two Burials in KV 64”. Egyptian Archaeology 41: 36–40.

Černý, J., 1930–1935. Ostraca hiératiques, 3 vols. Cairo: Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale du Caire.

Černý, J., 1973. The Valley of the Kings. Cairo: Institut français d’Archéologie Orientale du Caire.

Gautschy, R. and S. Bickel, 2013. “A Sundial found in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings”. Bulletin of the British Sundial Society 25 (4): 2–7.

Iwaniszewski, S., 2015. “Concepts of Space, Time, and the Cosmos”. In The Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, edited by C. L. N. Ruggles, 3–14. New York: Springer.

Salmas, A.-C., 2013. “La mesure du temps de la journée (1): Modules et fonctionnement des premières horloges à ombre”. Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 113: 353–380.

University of Basel Kings’ Valley Project, 2017 [online]. Accessed March 2017.

Vodolazhskaya, L., 2014. “Reconstruction of Vertical and L-shaped Ancient Egyptian Sundials and Methods for Measuring Time”. Archaeoastronomy and Ancient Technologies 2 (2): 1–18.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy