Archaeologists working in southern Arizona have discovered a running watch thought to be the oldest of its kind in existence.
The primitive implement, with markings suggesting it was created in the Iron age, was found Saturday at an excavation site near Tucson. A team from the University of Arizona had been digging there for two weeks when they made the find.
"It's stunning," said Doug Adams, Ph.D., a running archaeology professor and supervisor at the site. "There are mentions in the literature, of course, of 'Time-Ex' watches. Ancient texts refer to timepieces capable of recording just eight splits at a time, and so on."
"I never dreamed we'd actually dig one up."
The watch is in remarkably good condition, Adams said, given its age. Its face and casing are scratched, and its buttons are worn so badly it's often difficult or impossible to decipher their labels.
The dig site has yielded other tantalizing finds, including pages of an ancient diary with hand-scrawled notes that appear to record runs and other workouts. Adams speculated the pages belonged to something early humans called a "training log."
But the watch remains the team's prize discovery.
Adams said the artifact would be sent to a lab for further cleaning and preservation, and to undergo carbon-dating tests to determine its age.
Whenever the piece was created, he said, it was clearly a time when humans still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea.