How did ancient civilization tell the time? How did ancient people know different months?

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A number of ancient civilizations relied on the observation of celestial bodies. By plotting the alignment of the stars and other heavenly bodies, the ancients were able to organize their lives. The Greeks, for example, used the stars to help them determine which time of year was best for farming...

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A number of ancient civilizations relied on the observation of celestial bodies. By plotting the alignment of the stars and other heavenly bodies, the ancients were able to organize their lives. The Greeks, for example, used the stars to help them determine which time of year was best for farming or embarking on sea voyages. As these were essential activities for the stability and health of the community, it was important to achieve some degree of accuracy. Contrary to what we might think today, some of the instruments used by the ancients for measuring time were really quite sophisticated. An example of this is the Egyptian Antikythera Mechanism, a complex device consisting of wheels and gears that measured the movement of celestial bodies.

The growth of mathematics as a discipline allowed the Greeks to achieve more accuracy in the measurement of time. The Greeks began to gain a better understanding of angles and so devised a series of sundials that could measure time in a greater number of different locations. This important technological development allowed, in due course, the Romans to make portable sundials, which proved particularly useful on their seemingly endless military campaigns.

 

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The answer to your question depends on which ancient civilizations you are studying.

Most ancient months began with the first siting of the new moon.

The Ancient Babylonian calendar had months of alternating 29-30 days with a "catch up" every 3 years.

The Mayans and Aztecs had a very elaborate solar calendar that told the months and different epochs of time.

The Egyptians told their months based on the moon and the annual flooding of the Nile river based on the location of the Dog Star, Sirius.

The early Europeans told time and seasons using an elaborate stonework clock on the order of Stonehenge.

The Romans actually told the time using a sun-dial during the day. The Chinese used a type of water-clock to tell the passage of time.

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