Archaeologists find incredibly well-preserved 2,000-year-old sundial

At some point in history, 2,000 years ago, a Roman citizen is believed to have won an election in the city of Interamna Lirenas and commissioned a magnificent sundial to celebrate his victory.

Now, Italian archaeologists have found this “trophy” in the ruins of an ancient theater.

The sundial was found face down by students from the Faculty of Classical Studies as they dug the front of one of the theater entrances along a side street.

It was probably left behind at a time when the theater and the city were being dismantled to obtain construction materials during the Medieval and post-medieval periods.

“Less than a hundred examples of this specific type of sundial have survived and, of them, only a handful have some type of inscriptions, so this is really a special find,” University of Cambridge professor Alessandro Launaro,  said in a statement.

Thanks to the information that was recorded in the ancient sundial, archaeologists have been able to identify the individual who commissioned its manufacture: Marcus Novius Tubula, who according to the same inscription paid the order “with his own money”.

According to Cambridge researchers, the clock was created around the middle of the first century BC.

The dating of the sundial is based on the letter style of the inscription.

Also, in addition to the name, there is another text that certifies that Tubula had been chosen by the citizens as “tribune of the plebs”, a position that arose in the old Roman Republic to defend the plebeians of the consuls, the Senate and the power of the patricians as a whole.

“The sundial was surely his way of celebrating his election as a representative in his hometown. In addition, people who looked at it to know the time would remember the victory of Tubula, “explains Launaro, who emphasizes that originally the clock would have been located in a prominent place in the city forum.

Image Credit: University of Cambridge

The tribune lost most of his power after Rome became an empire in 27 BC, however, it remained an important step in the career of any aspiring politician.

“We had no idea that anyone hailing from Interamna had ever held an important office in Rome,” says Launaro. “Interamna Lirenas was not a town of remarkable prestige or notable influence, it was an average, middle-sized urban settlement.”

“This is exactly what makes it a potentially very informative case study about conditions in the majority of Roman cities in Italy at the time,” he adds.

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