Ancient sundial found by Roman theatre

A 2000-year old sundial was uncovered during excavations of a theatre in the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas, near Monte Cassino, Italy.

The ancient sundial (by Alessandro Launaro)

The artefact is said to have been preserved in nearly perfect shape. The sundial, known as hemicyclium, is carved out of a limestone block measuring 54 x 35 x 25 centimetres. It features a concave face, engraved with 11 hour lines (demarcating the twelve horae of daylight) intersecting three day curves (giving an indication of the season with respect to the time of the winter solstice, equinox and summer solstice). The iron gnomon that cast the shadow is missing. It is one of only a handful known to have survived. The sundial was unearthed in front of one of the theatre’s entrances along a secondary street. Researchers believe that it might have been left behind at a time when the theatre and town was being scavenged for building materials during the Medieval to post-Medieval period. It is accompanied by two Latin texts which shed light on the person who commissioned it. According to Alessandro Launaro, a lecturer at the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge, the base prominently features the name of M(arcus) NOVIUS M(arci) F(ilius) TUBULA [Marcus Novius Tubula, son of Marcus], whilst the engraving on the curved rim of the dial surface records that he held the office of TR(ibunus) PL(ebis) [Plebeian Tribune] and paid for the sundial D(e) S(ua) PEC(unia) (with his own money). The researchers believe that Marcus Novius Tubula, hailing from Interamna Lirenas, would be a hitherto unknown Plebeian Tribune of Rome, as in the time when the sundial was created the inhabitants of Interamna had already been granted full Roman citizenship.

(after Alessandro Launaro & PhysOrg)

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