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Indian Pump Drill

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Continued from product description on Native American's Page Two...

Historical Background: Perhaps one of man's earliest manufacturing methods was the drilling of holes. Primitive objects of bone (fish and mammal), ivory, wood, stone, and pottery have been discovered in Native American mounds (and other burial sites), caves, and shell heaps. The diameter of drilled holes range from less than 1/32 of an inch to more than half an inch. The depth of drilled holes also varied -- from less than a quarter of an inch to more than six inches! Drilled objects have been recovered throughout the world and date from all periods of man's existence.

Drilled holes were not necessarily crude either. Many beads and other artifacts have been found in North America (and elsewhere) that attest to the remarkable craftsmanship of our ancestors. In fact, holes made by today's electric drills cannot be considered significantly superior to those drilled over 10,000 years ago! Graceful butterfly-shaped objects with drilled holes of amazing accuracy have been found throughout the regions that comprise the Eastern United States.

What is even more amazing (and much more painful to think about) is the fact that primitive dentists were drilling holes in teeth as far back as 9,000 years ago! Skulls of ordinary men and women have been found with nearly perfect holes in a graveyard in Pakistan's Baluchistan province. One skull in particular had a hole in the inside back end of a tooth, bored out toward the front of the month! Other skulls also had neatly drilled holes in hard-to-reach molars.

The primitive awl is most likely the first type of drill invented by man. This is a sharp-pointed instrument had a stone, copper or bone point set in a socket of wood or bone. These awls were hand-held and pressed against an object. The awl was then turned back and forth with pressure from the arm to bore a hole. Understandably, this method was highly laborious and likely caused hand cramps and muscle spasms for the person drilling for long periods of time.

Some scholars believe prehistoric man also drilled holes through pearls by means of heated copper spindles. The drill point was made of copper which was rolled into a cylinder of stone, shell, wood or another piece of metal. Sometimes a piece of reed may have been used, but we cannot be sure as no evidence has been recovered to proof this. However, reeds could have, nevertheless, been a viable alternative to other types of materials.

Using hollow drills to bore holes was a common practice of early man in Asia, Africa and Europe. Evidence exists to say that hollow drills were also used in Central and North America. Hollow drills have been found in burial mounds in Ohio but throughout North America solid drill points were most commonly used.

Grass and bristles have also been used for drilling. This type of primitive drill was worked by rotating the "drill bit" between the thumb and a finger. It is certainly debatable which finger was used as this choice relies on personal preference but, ergonomically speaking, it is likely the index finger was more often used. Rubbing the thumb and index finger together is more natural for most people.

Metal and hard stone were often chosen for drill points, but points could also be made out of wood. To increase the boring efficiency of wooden drills, dry or wet sand was used. Sometimes these drill points were attached to their shafts with vegetal fiber or strings of animal hide.

The amount of time needed to drill with a primitive drill bit depended on the velocity of its revolution and the hardness of the object being drilled. Of course, other factors also determined the speed of drilling such as the size and weight of the parts used, the depth of the desired hole or boring, and hole size (diameter).

Drilling from both sides was also a technique used. Ample evidence has been found to know that Native Americans saw a distinct advantage in reducing friction by drilling an object from one side and then the other. Artificially bored items generally indicate exactly how the hole was made and with what type of material(s).

Besides "finger drills," there were also "shaft drills." These basic drills were simply straight shafts of wood or bone. The thickness of the shaft could be as little as a quarter of an inch to over 3/4 of an inch. Drill lengths ranged from less than 10 inches to more than two feet!

Shaft drills were rotated back and forth between the driller's hands. A shaft drill could also be used horizontally. This was accomplished by rolling the shaft drill up and down the thigh with one hand and holding the object against the drill point with the other hand.

Yet another technique was to "hold" the object between the feet and use both hands to rotate the drill shaft back and forth. This type of drill was seen used by members of Columbus' expeditions and mentioned in "Antiquity of Mexico." Along with the "strap drill," this is the only drill mentioned by Early American explorers.

The successor to the shaft drill is the strap drill. This tool is used not only for drilling holes but also for starting fires. Hence, the strap drill is also known by the name "fire drill." The shaft drill is an improvement because it increases the number of revolutions and allows for greater pressure to be exerted on the top of the shaft. The drill shaft is kept in position using a piece of wood (headpiece) and held in between the person's teeth.

The shaft is rotated by wrapping a leather strap once around it and holding the ends by the hands. By pulling in one direction and then the other, the shaft spun and drilled into an object. To get a better grip, pieces of wood or bone would be attached to the ends of the strap. The strap drill was used by cave dwellers in France as well as the early Egyptian, Greek and Indian (Asia) civilizations. The Aleut and Greenlanders of long ago are also known to have used the strap drill.

The improvement to the strap drill came with the invention of the "bow drill." This tool allowed the shaft to be rotated at a much greater speed and the head piece is held by a hand instead of the mouth. The strap is tied to a bowed stick (or, possibly, a curved piece of bone) and wrapped once around the shaft. The bow is then moved backward and forward with the other hand to make the shaft revolve.

Scholars now believe ancient dentists probably used small bow drills with flint drill heads between 5500 B.C. and 7000 B.C. Roberto Macchiarelli, an anthropology professor at the University of Poitiers, France, and colleagues have simulated the technique by drilling holes through human teeth in less than a minute! Macchiarelli believes dentistry probably evolved from intricate ornamental bead drilling.

Yet another improvement led to the invention of the "pump drill." This type of drill has a shaft which passes through a disc of stone, wood or pottery and a crosspiece through which the shaft runs. To the ends of the crosspiece is attached a leather string or thong, There is enough "play" in the string or thong to allow it to cross the top of the shaft and permit the crosspiece to reach close to the disc. The disc is turned to wind the string about the shaft thus raising the crosspiece. By pressing down on the crosspiece several time the shaft is made to turn. The disc's purpose is to make the shaft rewind the string. This method allows the pump drill to have even greater speeds than the strap drill or bow drill. Also, one hand is left free to hold the object being drilled.

Fun Fact: The jar of the teeth when using a strap drill is a disagreeable sensation that disappears with use. (And it is not from the loss of teeth either!)

Fun Fact: The pump drill was used by the Iroquois and Pueblo Indians. It is still used today in the process of creating works of art!

Not-So-Fun Fact: The discovery of skulls with drilled teeth in Pakistan makes dentistry 4,000 years older than first thought -- far older than the invention of anesthesia! Ouch!

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Indian Pump Drill
Indian Pump Drill
Item Number 6007

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