Jun 19, 2017 I Micah Hanks

Remarkable Hand Drill Found at Ancient Dig Site Dates Back Thousands of Years

Archaeology has, at times, composed a very illustrative history of the ancient world for us. Despite the innate mysteries of the ancient past, we do know much of the comings and goings of ancient peoples, their way of life, and the processes and tools they used.

Recently in Turkey’s northwestern province of Bursa, a remarkable stone tool described as resembling “a modern day drill bit” was discovered, which is believed to date back to as much as 7,500 years in age.

The tool was uncovered during excavations at Bursa’s Aktopraklik Settlement Mound in the province’s Nilüfer district, an archaeological location renowned for the preservation of its 7th century habitation sites. However, ongoing excavations show that the site's earlier features are believed to date at least as far back as 1,000 years prior to the antiquity of the newly recovered drill.


The item is composed of a worked flint tip, which is hafted to a small wooden rod. A saucer-shaped stone rests above this, with a hole neatly drilled in its center, through which the wooden rod passes. Above this, a second, shorter rod is connected to the primary shaft in perpendicular fashion; a length of twine runs from the vertical end of the primary rod to each of the ends of the shorter fixture, giving an appearance similar to that of a ship’s sail.

The lead excavator at the Aktopraklik site, Necmi Karul, said flint stones have been discovered throughout Anatolia, and have seen a variety of uses over the last several thousands of years. Karul is a professor at the Istanbul University Department of Archaeology.

"We believe that the pointed stone, which was created through the dressing of a flint stone, was used as a bit on a drill,” Karul told Daily Sabah, who reported on the discovery.

Ancient drilling devices have been in use for several thousands of years, with many similar tools easily dating back more than 30,000 years in age. Early applications for rotary tools weren’t limited to drilling, however, as the friction caused by a small length of wood spun quickly between the hands constituted one early method of creating fire. Similar activities involving stone, bone, ivory, and other materials were useful for boring small holes, which aided in the creation of clothing, jewelry, and a number of other items. Such devices were among the earliest hand drills used by people in ancient times.

Archaeologists at Aktopraklik believe the 7,500-year-old drill was likely used to create small items similar to beads, which have been found scattered throughout the site during excavations.

Micah Hanks
Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

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