Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

Quilt of USNO 26-inch RefractorSundials are often created at the instersection of science and art.  Quilting has made its mark as well.  For example in Burnsville North Carolina is the Quilt Block Sundial, painted in bright quilt blocks on a 8x8 foot board above the entrance to the Yancy Common Times Journal Building.

Now comes Altazimuth Arts, an enterprise established by Sara Schechner, well-know historian of science who is curator of Harvard's Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments.  But Schechner is also active in the Studio Art Quilt Associates, Quilters' Connection of Watertown MA, and member of Quinobeguin Quilters guild. As she explains, "Recent quilts are inspired by history and the night sky, the built environment wet within nature, and by the many-faceted meanings of tangible things."

Illustrated is the US Naval Observatory 26-inch refractor made by Alvan Clark & Sons in 1873.  "The inspiration for my quilt was an engraving from a newspaper story celebrating the work of the telescope. The print shows astronomer Simon Newcomb (at the eyepiece) and Superintendent Rear Admiral Benjamin F. Sands (standing) in the dome with the brand new telescope in late fall 1873. The engraving was based on a photograph of the same scene." Visit Schechner site at

nass_news_2012_oct_ChiWareSundialLanternThis weekend on October 6th a new sundial was dedicated in Atlanta, Georgia.  Ayokunle Odeleye, nationally renowned artist, has created a modernistic bronze and stainless steel sundial called “Chi Wara Sundial Lantern.”  The 8-foot tall sundial is accessible at ground level, sitting in a 20-foot circular plaza with hour marks at the circumference.

Interestingly, it functions as a sundial by day, but shines as a lantern by night.  The public artwork honors twelve community leaders from Cascade Heights located in southwest Atlanta for their spiritual and cultural contributions to their community and Atlanta.

Odeleye’s sundial took inspiration from Mali folklore of West Africa and the headdress of Chi Wara, a mythical creature that is half-man and half-antelope.  As noted by the city of Atlanta, the sundial  represents “a headdress in special ceremonial harvest dance designed to pass on knowledge from the elders to young people in the viliage.  Odeleye’s ‘Chi Wara Sundial Lantern’ interprets this mythological image and conceptually uses it to suggest the ceremonial passing of scholarship from Cascade elders to the youth of this community."

Reference: Saporta Report - David Pendered - Oct 3, 2012

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