Sundials are just endlessly fascinating objects and the so-called Wurdi Youang rocks in Australia may well be the oldest one yet.

Aboriginal sundial?  Absolutely possible.

Most people know about Stonehenge in Great Britain, a circle of stones erected about 2500 BC or so.  But research on a group of stones in Australia strongly suggest that Aborigines were building their own sundials some 10,000 years ago.  Sounds like a long time ago but not for indigenous Australians who likely lived there for over 100,000 years.  Aboriginal astronomy was almost certainly more advanced that what most people today believe.  Even now, internet sundial pages will talk about the “birth” of the sundial in western civilizations and even textbooks claimed no Aboriginal language had a word for any number greater than four!  Oh please.

 Westerners will think of a sundial with an upright gnomon telling time by shadow.  Or perhaps an armillary sundial in an English garden comes to mind (think big round hoops skewered with an arrow).  But line of sight sundials work very well for telling significant dates like winter and summer solstice.  Indeed, our Christmas holiday is almost certainly derived from the winter solstice and not the birth of Christ.  Careful, daily observations and moving rocks around will make a very serviceable sundial and it appears the ancient Aboriginals did just that with the Wurdi Youang rocks .

Wurdi Youang rocks


All sundials are cool, modern sundials are just awesome!

The North American Sundial Society has pictures of some of the absolutely coolest looking sundials you can imagine.  You can even register a cool one on their site so all the other sundial fans can find it.  Modern computing power has enabled sundials that could only exist in this day and age.  Just when you think you’ve see it all, a sundial fan will think up a new twist.

 Be sure to follow the links to sites with sundial software that will let you print out a sundial for your window sill.  These make wonderful science projects for kids and all the hard work has been computed for you.  All you need is a printer.

 So as you go back to your roots and watch the sun as your ancestors did I’ll leave you with a traditional sundial motto: 

  • Horas non numero nisi serenas. (I count only the happy hours.)

Author’s note – no self referring links, no affiliate links and no animals were used in the writing of this article.