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Tue Jun 26, 2012, 01:05 PM

Archeologists find ivory sundial at Jamestown excavation site....

Check out the video at the link-it shows the discovery of the sundial and gives some more information.


It was discovered while archaeologists were carefully digging fill soil above a cellar dated to the early James Fort period (1607-1610) at Jamestown, Virginia, the site of North America's first successful English colony. The artifact was the lower leaf of an ivory pocket sundial known in the 17th century as a diptych dial. It clearly bore the name of its maker, Hans Miller, who was a 17th century craftsman known to have made sundials in Nuremberg, Germany. Like many objects found at the Jamestown excavations, it had taken the long journey across the Atlantic, likely in the pocket of one of early Jamestown's gentlemen colonists. Such pieces were more commonly carried by individuals of gentry status.

It is not totally unique within the Jamestown context. Another lower leaf section of a table dial was recovered in 1998 from a structure near one of the palisades of the original James Fort. The diptych dial, on the other hand, was found in a cellar near James Fort's first well, which was only 10 feet away from the cellar.

"Such dials have two leaves like a book, hinged together on one end so the leaves open out to form a right angle", reports the discoverers at the Jamestown site. "Most diptych dials include a horizontal dial engraved on the inside of the lower leaf and a vertical dial on the inside of the upper. Strung between the two leaves is a "pole string" to serve as the gnomon (the object that makes a shadow; measuring the length and position of that shadow indicates the hour of the day)".[1]

The most practical use for the instrument was thus to determine the time of day, but Jamestown curator Bly Straube believes that, more than telling time, it "was the aesthetic or religious satisfaction from making a device to simulate the heavens. The presence of these dials at Jamestown represents the age in which they were produced -- an age of exploration and discovery that was as much about philosophy as it was science. The "compass Dyall" was more than a timekeeper to the 17th century individual; it was a way for a gentleman engaged in the art of "dyalling" to ponder his place in the world".[1]

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