Roman object shaped like a leg of ham found to be pocket sundial
The Ancient Romans relied on a curious object to tell time: a sundial in the shape of an Italian ham. National Geographic has featured the work of Wesleyan University’s Christopher Parslow to re-create this ancient “pork clock” through 3-D printing, which is helping researchers to better understand how it was used and what information it conveyed.
|Archaeologists were initially baffled when the strange shaped object was excavated in the 1760s from the|
ruins of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum [Credit: Lady Erin/Flickr]
The small, portable sundial—the “pocket watch of its day,” according to the article—was first excavated in the 1760s from the ruins of a grand country house in the Roman town of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
Christopher Chenier, digital design technologist and visiting assistant professor of art, printed the “pork clock” on a 3-D printer at Wesleyan.
According to the article:
"After Parslow was asked about the pork clock, he was inspired to build a 3-D model. He took dozens of photos of the timepiece at its home institution, Italy’s National Archaeological Museum of Naples. A 3-D printer at his university churned out the model—in plastic rather than the original silver-coated bronze—in a matter of hours.
|A model of the “pork clock” sundial shows the time as 9 a.m. [Credit: Christopher Parslow; |
3-D print by Christopher Chenier]
The original clock is missing its gnomon, the part of a sundial that casts a shadow, but an 18th-century museum curator described it having one in the shape of a pig’s tail, so Parslow re-created that, too.
Parslow then experimented with the sundial outdoors. The clock is hung from a string so that the sun falls on its left side, allowing the attached pig’s tail to cast a shadow across the grid.
The user aligns the clock so that the tip of the tail’s shadow falls on the vertical line for the current month. Finally, the user counts the number of horizontal lines from the top horizontal line to the horizontal line closest to the tip of the shadow. That indicates the number of hours after sunrise or before sunset."
Author: Lauren Rubenstein | Source: Wesleyan University [January 21, 2017]