We saw the drilling rig in action because I'd like you to see something else, which I discussed with the well driller who owns the rig: Lloyd Trodden, president of Bettray Well Drilling Ltd. This gives us a second and professional opinion.

Mentioned elsewhere on this website is the fact that as a Chartered Accountant (equivalent to CPA in the US) with an accounting and auditing practice, one of my clients was a Canadian subsidiary whose parent company manufactured drilling rigs, down-the-hole hammers and rotary percussive bits. Here's one of their 4 inch bits:

This bit is about 8½ inches long. The pieces that protrude from the sides are called "wings". At the top or head there are tungsten carbide inserts. It's a rotary percussive drill bit like the ones you first saw in action, but it's not a button bit, it's shaped more like a drag bit, that drags up the overburden before it gets to the rock. It's meant to do both jobs, or to work in softer stone like limestone in quarries. This shows the inserts more clearly:

It weighs 10 lbs. Here's a side view of the bit:

You can see the splines at the back of the bit, for fitting into the keyways on the hammer.

Now that you've seen a drilling rig in action, and two types of modern bits, a button bit and a drag bit, here's something else for us to consider:

Club head. Chicama Valley: Cupisnique. Stone, 5 inches high. National Gallery of Art, Robert Woods Bliss Collection, Loan 432.

The National Gallery of Art is in Washington, in the US. Of course as soon as I came across this in an academic publication, I knew what it was - a drag bit. But to get an independent opinion I showed this photo to Lloyd Trodden. Here's what he said:

It's quite similar in shape to what you've seen us using here. (It has) the shank and the head with the protrusions for cutting or breaking rock, a drag bit.

EF: To pull off the overburden before you get down to the rock?

LT: Yes

Here's something else for us to consider:

Club head. Chicama valley. Cup isnique. Stone. 3 inches high. American Museum of Natural History, New York 41.2-635

What happens to drill bits is that sometimes the inserts get knocked out or a wing can snap off. But these 3000 or more year old bits don't have broken wings, though this one has the head and the wings worn down with wear. The dimensions are not that different from modern bits. By contrast we can see that the first stone bit was new or nearly new, lacking wear points. When you look at the way they're made, if they've been actually carved out of stone, it's remarkable. The way the cones meet the body of the bit at their base, it almost looks as though the bits were poured in a mould, not carved. It would be very difficult to carve one of these bits from a solid block of stone.

We took time to see a drilling rig in action because I wanted you to get a first hand impression of the technology and problems involved. Now here's something else for us to look at:

Club head. Chicama valley: Cupisnique. Stone, 3¼ high. American Museum of Natural History New York 41.2-364

LT: It says a club head but I would say it would work very well as an augur to lift dirt out of a hole. That's the first thing I would look at before I would say club head.

Then I showed him this:

Club head. Chicama valley. Cupisnique. Stone. 4 inches high. Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge 58-51-30/8164

LT: Now that looks even more like our drill bits. You've got the shank and the buttons or whatever that might be, wear points, and the protrusions on the bottom for breaking and cutting.

EF: It's broken off here at the base. They probably lost it down the hole. They've all got splines down the side for fitting into keyways on whatever was driving them.

LT. Yep.

Just to refresh our memories, here's a close up of one of the bits Bettray was using:

The Chicama valley where all the stone bits and augur were found is in Peru, South America, here, on a National Geographic archaeological map:

The key to this map shows the three dots forming a triangle mean an archaeological site; a crossed miniature pick and shovel show a mining area; and a miniature derrick means an oil field. Just above Puerto Chicama on the map you can see Cupisnique. Here's what the back of that same National Geographic map tells us:

Dating ancient objects isn't always as accurate as we like to think it is but according to this authority, 600 - 1500 BC is the dating for the Cupisnique culture. So these drill bits are said to be between 2600 and 3500 years old, and they're made of stone, but they appear to be using the same drilling techniques as we have in our modern drilling rigs. What we don't know is who manufactured these bits, how they hammered and rotated the bits, and how they made them so accurately and so well balanced. Though they may have been drilling for water, they might also have been drilling for gold and silver, both of which minerals have ore deposits in the general area even down to present times, and which were in use in the ancient South American cultures. The Toronto-based Globe and Mail of July 13, 1996, page B1, had an article which began:

Canadian mining giants Rio Algom and Inmet Mining Corp. have teamed up to develop a project in Peru that could be one of the world's largest and most profitable copper and zinc mines. ...482 kilometres north of Lima, ... the deposit also contains silver... by international standards the ore grade appears to be rich.

Here's a map of the general area:

Look at the famous archaeological sites there: Tiahuanaco, an ancient city and civilization about which we know next to nothing; Macchu Picchu; Cuzco, capital of the Inca empire; Nazca (see my The problem of Nazca, elsewhere on this web site); and the Chavin, Chimu and Moche cultures.

If our scholars are calling these objects club heads and think people 3000 or more years ago were fighting with these things, when in fact they were using them to drill down into bedrock to search for precious minerals, or obtain water wells, something is very wrong with our idea of the level of technology of 3000+ years ago in South America. This is only about 300 - 600 miles from Cuzco the capital of the Inca Empire. The Inca and their predecessors had gold, silver and copper in abundance. They didn't just pick it up off the ground. They had to mine it, and the mining goes back earlier in time than the Incas. The Incas were like the Ancient Romans in Europe. Before the Romans came the ancient Greeks, and before them the Minoans. The Minoans had flush toilets but the ancient Greeks who came later did not. The Incas also had preceding civilized societies. It looks as though these earlier societies had more advanced mining techniques than their successors.