One of the old
s in human history
. People noticed that, lo and behold
, certain things tended to burn
at the same rate
, each time, every time
. So, time
in many places were measure
d by burning things (especially during dry season
s - water
being too costly to waste in a water clock
The one item we're used to seeing lit aflame for timekeeping are candles. I seem to remember that in some European towns of the Middle Ages, the clockmakers and the candlestickmakers were often one and the same. But don't quote me on that.
Next, we've got incense. The Chinese made incense seals with mazelike grooves scraped into them; the grooves were filled with powdered incense and set ablaze. (The Flamin' Groovies?) These seals were often set to the time of one hundred k'o, or about 24 1/2 hours. Better yet, 'senko' (Japanese incense sticks) was olde-tyme Japanese slang for a half-hour of a geisha's services; the geisha would light a senko at the beginning of a session, and when the incense ran out, playtime was over. No word on whether clients tried to bring in their own (longer-burning) sticks or not.
There's also the simple method of burning knotted rope. The Chinese had a 'poor man's alarm clock' that consisted of a rope, knots spaced evenly so that each knot would burn after the interval of one k'o. You would take the length of rope you needed, tie the number of knots for how long you wanted to sleep, and stick the end of the rope securely between your toes. Light the other end and sleep. Wake when you smell meat cooking.
The European take on this was very interesting; metal weights (like, fishing weights) would be tied up in the knots, and the whole thing would be suspended over a large brass pan. Every time a knot burned, the weight would fall and hit the pan. BONG! This would probably be akin to a 'poor man's church steeple', I guess.
And finally, my favorite way of measuring time : one cigarette tends to combust into its component parts about 5 minutes. That's where the phrase 'Take five' came from - the amount of time that nervous musicians needed to calm their nerves. Better yet, in WWII-era Greece, peasants often only knew the distance from one village to the other in cigarettes; it would take someone n cigarettes to walk the distance, chain-smoking the whole way.
All right, it's hardlinked, two months after creation. Pedro, you forced my hand...