The exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul presently showing at the Queensland Museum includes two very interesting sundials. They come from the Gymnasium of the city of Ai Khanum in the northern part of the country. In the second century BCE this was a prosperous Greek city  in the wake of Alexander the Great’s eastward conquests.

Both are carved from limestone. One is in the form of half a spherical bowl and would have had a metal gnomon with its end at the centre of the sphere. There are seven month circles and eleven hour lines. According to the catalogue, the dial was designed for a latitude like that of Ai Khanum.

Although the spherical dial was the most common type in antiquity, the second dial is unique, with the scales laid out in a cylindrical hole about 20 cm in diameter. There must have been a metal gnomon in the centre, angled parallel to the earth’s axis, as was the axis of the cylinder. The dial cannot have been useful near the equinoxes, and the scales are appropriate for a latitude of 23 degrees, more appropriate for Egypt or India than Ai Khanum. The catalogue speculates that it was possibly a teaching aid in the Gymnasium.

Oh, and there are hundreds of exquisite gold baubles too.