In Lebanon, Part of an Ancient Sundial Returns to View

The National Museum of Beirut has just one historic timepiece: half of a second-century-B.C. sundial. It was damaged sooner or later up to now, however the fragment within the museum has survived even the large explosion that leveled the close by Port of Beirut on Aug. four, 2020, blowing some of the museum’s doorways off their hinges and shattering home windows.

The museum reopened on July 1 after a $175,000 restoration, donated by the Aliph Foundation by means of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the sundial is as soon as once more on view, protected in a glass vitrine.

At a look, it seems to be “like a lump of stone,” mentioned Ruth Young, an archaeology professor on the University of Leicester in England, whose specialties embody the Middle East. Yet on nearer inspection, she famous, “you can see the precision with which the lines are carved, marking out the passage of time.”

The sundial is “a two-part stone,” mentioned Tania Zaven, regional director of the north Mount Lebanon space, which incorporates the World Heritage website of Byblos, for the Directorate General of Antiquities in Lebanon. “We have one part of the sundial, and the other part is in the Louvre Museum.”

The principal hall of the museum. The establishment is open once more after present process a $175,000 renovation to restore damages attributable to the explosion in August 2020.Credit…Diego Cupolo/NurPhoto, through Getty Images

The items had been present in Umm el-Amed, in southern Lebanon. When the system was entire, it had 12 strains of equivalent size incised into it as a result of the Phoenicians, the merchants and sailors who first used it, “calculated the shadows, to see what time it is,” Ms. Zaven mentioned.

The piece within the Beirut museum, which, at 12.5 inches excessive and virtually 18 inches huge, is the bigger of the 2, was discovered between 1943 and 1945. Its hour markings are “four equal lines and a little bit of the fifth one,” Ms. Zaven mentioned.

The Louvre’s fragment, discovered circa 1860-61, is smaller and has solely two full hour strains and one damaged one.

The relaxation of the sundial continues to be lacking, together with the triangular gnomon, or blade, that casts the shadow so customers can discern the hour. But excavations on the website are persevering with, and, as Umm el-Amed is shut to the Israeli border, entry is restricted. “It’s helped preserve it, to be honest, as it doesn’t get many visitors,” Professor Young mentioned.

She added that she would love the 2 items to be reunited and saved on the Beirut museum “because it is Lebanese.”

“It’s from that area, that territory, that place," she continued, “and I think that artifacts belong in the place where they were found, as closely as possible.”

In Lebanon, she mentioned, whereas “the French are talking about intervening in some way in the economy and political situation, I think that archaeology and the return of broken sundials is probably going to come quite low down on the list of priorities. But it is something to hope for in our lifetimes.”