Wait an ancient minute…

As summer comes to a close, and daylight saving time (DST) comes to an end, I decided to look up exactly when DST ends.  Turns out that, according to NASA, President Bush signed legislation  in 2005 that extended DST, so it starts earlier (on the second Sunday in March, rather than the first Sunday in April) and ends later (on the first Sunday in November, rather than the last Sunday of October).

This year, it ends on Sunday November 7, which is much later than I expected.  I’m glad it will not be quite so dark for Halloween…

What I learned from the Wikipedia entry on DST is that while ancient people were not what we would consider “punctual,” they did have a neat version of daylight saving time.

Historical note: there was no need for the “trains to run on time” until there were trains — that’s when people started wearing watches… so they’d know what time the train was getting to the station.  Before trains, people didn’t really travel far enough from home for it to matter what time it was in some far-away land.  The whole concept of time zones started in the late 1800s, and apparently there was an International Meridian Conference held in 1884 to help set up time zones.

Back in ancient times, daylight hours were broken into 12 pieces.  And each piece was one hour.  So summer hours were longer than winter hours.  According to Wikipedia, a summer hour would be up to 75 minutes while winter hours could be as short as 41 minutes.  Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

… ancient civilizations adjusted daily schedules to the sun more flexibly than modern DST does, often dividing daylight into twelve equal hours regardless of day length, so that each daylight hour was longer during summer.[12] For example, Roman water clocks had different scales for different months of the year: at Rome’s latitude the third hour from sunrise, hora tertia, started by modern standards at 09:02 solar time and lasted 44 minutes at the winter solstice, but at the summer solstice it started at 06:58 and lasted 75 minutes.[13]

I believe that night was also broken up into pieces, and different people took different parts of the “night watch.”  This biblical source is the best corroboration I could find right now for my thought about the night watch  — I will see if I can enlist one of my students to take a deeper look at how ancient people viewed time differently from the way we view time today in 2010.

I was just chatting online with my friend Ken in Tanzania, and it was around 5 p.m. here in Durham.  I wondered what time it was for him, so I typed into Google: “Time in Tanzania” and since Google knows everything, it told me 🙂

This is a screen capture from 5:25 p.m. in Durham, when I’m writing this post:

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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