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The story of Armenian sundials – from necessity to becoming history and an element of architectural design

Nowadays, people are using various devices to know the time and there is no need to ask somebody or pass a distance to find a clock. Naturally, that was the case centuries ago when people also wanted to know the time yet used completely different equipment. Sundials, which have become an history and an element of architectural design, have been used in the middle ages as inseparable part of the life.

A sundial uses a shadow cast by a thin rod called a gnomon on to a flat surface etched with different times. The latitude and gradient are taken into account to decide the precise location, ideally on a south-facing wall. Its accuracy varies according to the time of year, and the amount of sunlight in a day.

The oldest sundial in Armenia is on Zvartnots temple dating to the 7th century. Doctor of History, scientist at “Preservations Service for Historic-Cultural reserve-museums and historic environment” SNCO found it difficult to tell the first record of sundials in Armenia.

In an Interview with Panorama.am he said all churches in Armenia had their sundials and after clocks were installed on church buildings, they were renamed into a Zham [church in Armenian equivalent of the English word clock].

In Piliposyan words, apart from serving as clocks, sundials served as means of communicating with the god. He brought the example of the Zvartnots temple sundial found during excavations with enclosed manifest in it calling on prayers to talk to god whatever time it was.

To note, the original sundial of the Zvartnots temple is kept at Zvartnots Historic-Cultural reserve-museum, while the duplicate is in the yard of the temple.

Sundials have been preserved on buildings of Dsegh, Tsakhkadzor, Dilijan, Noyemberyan as well as Nagorno Karabakh churches. Sundial also were curved on khachkars [Armenian cross-stones]. The equivalent of those clocks was used in the Middle East were known as gnomons, Piliposyan said.

Zvartnots temple clock
Haghartsin monastery
Haghpat monastery
Tanahat Monastery
Echmiadzin
St Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral Mother Cathedral in Yerevan 
Makaravank, Khachkar
Cascade complex, Yerevan
Matenadaran
Yerevan State University

https://www.panorama.am/en/news/2019/02/23/Armenian-sundials/2076856

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