Miniature clock from Greek Roman era from Pisa dig

Hidden in drawer for years it is now being studied

21 April, 18:06

    Miniature clock from Greek Roman era from Pisa dig Miniature clock from Greek Roman era from Pisa dig

    PISA - An ivory clock ended up in a drawer among findings from a dig and is today at the center of a unique discovery of its kind, the University of Pisa has said.

    It is a miniature solar watch in ivory which dates back to the II and end of I century BC, a unique piece in the Greek-Roman world. The university said the exceptional finding is being studied by archaeologist Emanuele Taccola, historian Filippo Battistoni, Jérome Bonnin (University Lille 3) and Denis Savoie (Syrte, Observatoire de Paris, Universcience), two of the top international experts of gnomonic and measurement of time in the Greek-Roman world.

    The object, which is similar in function to a sundial, was found during an excavation campaign between 1985 and 1988 and reveals new details of the life of the city in Roman times when the current Piazza dei Miracoli, just a few steps from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, was occupied by a residential complex of domus.

    "The clock is very small - the university explained - with a height and length of a little more than 5 cm and the grid that is preserved in an excellent manner so that it is still possible to measure the time, although not with precision. Moreover, the material with which it was made, elephant ivory, makes it the second grid of its kind known so far in literature, together with another piece from the Ptolemaic era coming from Tanis, in the Egyptian delta, built from the tooth of an hippopotamus. So far, out of the 19 miniature watches found and dating back to the Greek-Roman era, the one in Pisa is the only (piece) in elephant ivory".

    The clock, researchers said, could not have functioned correctly in Pisa's latitude. However, the current Piazza dei Miracoli during imperial times was occupied by high-ranking domus with mosaic floors and frescoed walls that surely belonged to people who could show off the object for its prestige. "A similar connotation - they added - can be supposed also for the late republican residential asset and our watch, found in a layer from which objects dating back to the end of the I century BC, is proof of this".

    Its function was "self-celebratory in terms of richness and elegance that inhabitants of those residences attributed to these objects positioned in spaces used for entertainment".

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