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Moving Shadows, Moving Sun

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Early Modern Sundials Restaging Miracles

image of Nuncius

Irrespective of geo- or heliocentric presuppositions, the functioning of sundials is based on the observation of moving shadows or light spots. Even though the cast shadow was often simply used to indicate the time, it could also remind the users of the ephemerality of earthly things or function as an index of planetary movements. This article examines the various ways in which early modern sundials visually interpret the moving shadow or light spot. The instruments address the shadow in inscriptions, integrate it into their design (e.g. in cruciform dials) or even manipulate its course (as in the so-called Horologium Ahaz). Both the crucifix and the Ahaz dials not only refer to astronomical miracles but actually restage them. Even though by means of the horologium it was not possible to explain the Old Testament miracle of the shadow moving backward, adepts were able to recreate it on a terrestrial scale.

Affiliations: 1: Humboldt University, Berlin


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