Archaeologists have found a 2,000-year-old Roman sundial during an excavation in the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas in Central Italy. It was engraved with the name Marcus Novius Tubula, believed to be the man who commissioned it.
The discovery and the excavation were led by the researchers from the University of Cambridge. The sundial was found to be well preserved and thought to be a politician’s gift to the hometown from which the man was hailed to become an elected official in Rome.
The town, Interamna Lirenas was an ancient Roman colony that was established in 312 BC. It was about 130 km from Rome. The name “Interamna” means “between the rivers,” whence the town is located in between the Liri and Rio Spalla Bassa rivers. The town was abandoned in sixth century AD, according to BBC News.
The sundial was found on the excavation site of a roofed theater, which could probably seat 1,500 people. It was learned that Tubula was a Plebeian Tribune and he paid for the timepiece with his own money. Based on the style of an inscription, the sundial dated around the middle of the 1st century BCE. This was the time the residents of the town was granted full Roman citizenship.
Alessandro Launaro, a classicist from the University of Cambridge, said that the sundial would have represented Tubula’s way of celebrating his election in his hometown. Tubula could have been elected as a powerful politician though he was from a small country town. It was thought that this sundial reminded the townsfolk that their fellow townsman had made it in the powerful kingdom of Rome.
Launaro described the sundial as “really a special find” even though the sundial was common during the Roman period. He further said that there are about less than one hundred of sundials that have survived up to this day. On the other hand, only a few have legible inscriptions, as noted by Science Alert.
A sundial indicates the time of day and seasons by the probable position of the Sun in the sky. It is composed of a flat plate or also known as the dial and the gnomon that casts a shadow onto the dial. The sundial may also be used as an object of mathematical study, literary metaphors, and decorative ornament.