Circadian rhythmic expression of conditioned place avoidance (CPA) was produced in Syrian hamsters homozygous for the circadian short period mutation, tau. In constant dim red light neither the 20 h endogenous period, nor a 20 h place conditioning schedule eliminated the 24 h modulation of CPA behavior described previously for wild type (wt) hamsters and other species. Tau mutants exhibited a 20 h rhythm superimposed on the 24 h modulation. The 20 h component was removed selectively with lesions of the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Wt animals conditioned on a 20 h schedule did not produce a 20 h rhythm, but still expressed the 24 h modulation. The results show that the context entrainable oscillator (CEO) underlying memory for the timing of an unconditioned stimulus, retains a period of about 24 h regardless of clock gene background (tau mutation) and/or the conditioning schedule (24 vs 20 h). Therefore the CEO responsible for time memory is distinct from the biological clock controlling activity; the underlying circadian molecular mechanisms may differ from the ubiquitous transcription–translation feedback oscillator; and time memory itself is not classically conditioned.