We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Merkhet?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Historical Index is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Historical Index, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A merkhet is a device which was used in Ancient Egypt for the purpose of telling time at night. Merkhets were extremely accurate, and could be used to make astronomical observations in addition to to keeping time. Several extant merkhets are on display at museums with collections of Egyptian artifacts, and numerous works of Egyptian art depict the use of merkhets. It has been suggested that these instruments were probably used in the construction of temples and tombs to align the structures in particular ways.

The device is fairly simple. A merkhet includes a straight bar attached to a plumb line, a weighted line which can be used to establish a straight vertical line to the ground. To use the merkhet, the device was aligned with the North star, and a second merkhet would be used to establish a North-south meridian. This line could be used to align a structure, or as a reference point to track the movement of stars in the sky.

By making note of when particular stars crossed the meridian, the user could determine the time. Astronomers also used merkhets to map the skies and to make observations, often with the assistance of a bay, a specially designed tool used for sighting. During the day, when the stars are not visible, a sundial would have been used to mark the passing of the hours.

The word “merkhet” means “instrument of knowing,” and merkhets certainly were powerful instruments for learning more about the night. Prior to the development of the merkhet, people relied on things like water clocks to tell time, and their knowledge of the movements of the stars was imperfect, to say the least. When the merkhet entered the scene, it allowed people to make much more accurate scientific observations, and this undoubtedly had an effect on Egyptian mythology and cosmology.

With the development of time keeping devices which do not require the skills of an astronomer, the merkhet has faded from use, along with devices like the astrolabe. However, it is still possible to keep time with a merkhet, and some people enjoy creating their own versions of the device as a novelty, and to get a sense of what working as an astronomer in Ancient Egypt might have been like. Some science museums allow people to use devices like merkhets and astrolabes in their planetariums so that they can experience them firsthand.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.