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Why do we have twenty-four hours in a day? Why not twenty hours? Or sixteen hours?
As a matter of fact, we have twenty-four hours in a day simply because the Egyptians did. They invented the twenty-four hour day long ago, and people have used it ever since!
And why did the ancient Egyptians select twenty-four hours for their day? Actually, they didn’t think of it as twenty-four hours, they thought of it as two twelves- twelve hours of daytime and twelve hours of nighttime. And why twelve? Well, they divided the day into ten hours, and then assigned one more hour for the dawn, and one for the dusk, making twelve all together. They gave the same number of hours to the night, to make it even.
Of course, the Egyptians, whose language was different from ours, didn’t use the word hours. They used a word that may have sounded something like ‘wihn oo wiht’.
‘wihn oo wiht’ meant ‘priest’s duties’, and telling time was one of the many duties of the Egyptian priests. The priests marked off the hours during the day by means of clocks that measured the shadow cast by the sun. And they marked off the hours during the night by watching for certain stars to rise on the eastern horizon. As each of these stars appeared, a new hour, or ‘wihn oo wiht’ began.
The ancient Egyptians, and also the Romans, began and ended their day at midnight, as most people do now. The Babylonians and the Greeks began their day at sunrise. And the ancient Jews began their day at sunset.
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