The movements of the stars and the planets have been studied in many cultures, to develop calendars and divide time into meaningful units. Knowledge of the regular repeating cycles of the Sun and stars similarly provided a means of determining direction.
Accurate knowledge of time and direction is crucial in many cultures, and this need has driven people to harness their knowledge of the skies and invent precise instruments to measure and record it. To properly carry out the five pillars or duties of Islam, for example, an accurate knowledge of prayer times, the rising and setting times of the Sun during Ramadan, and the direction of Mecca are all needed. Browse through this gallery of ingenious instruments to discover how people gradually learned where they stood in time and place.