Reconstructed drill with orginal borer - ROM2018_16146_64


Reconstructed drill with orginal borer

Medium:Wood, stone, flint
Geography: Undetermined site, Egypt
Period: Protodynastic to Old Kingdom
2.4 × 6 cm
Overall Measurements: 91.6 × 33 × 10 cm (36 1/16 × 13 × 3 15/16 in.)
Object number: 979X2.36
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

The ROM stone-vessel drill has been reconstructed from depictions on ancient Egyptian tomb walls and from the determinative sign used in the writing of the Egyptian word for craftsman (Gardiner sign list U25). This type of drill was used from the Protodynastic to Old Kingdom Periods, but no actual examples of such a drill have survived. The ROM reconstruction consists of a central wooden shaft made from a tree branch whose bottom has been hollowed into a fork. A separate bent piece of wood has been spliced into the central shaft forming a top part to be used as a handle. White rope has been used to form nets by which two rounded pieces of limestone are attached to the wooden shaft. The rope wraps around the wooden shaft at least ten times.  An ancient crescent-shaped flint borer has been inserted into the forked end of the shaft.

A number of Old Kingdom reliefs depict the use of a stone vase-maker’s drill.  The outer form of the vessel is always depicted in a basically finished state, even though modern stone vessel makers in Egypt typically work on the interior of the vessel before finishing the exterior; it is in the hollowing out of the interior that vessels are most likely to be damaged or disfigured. The representation of stone vase manufacturing from the Dynasty 5 tomb of Ti at Saqqara is probably the closest rendering to the ROM reconstruction because of the curved handle attached to the shaft above the weights; an image from this scene is reproduced on the gallery label. From the scale of the standing figures, the central shaft of the drill must be at least a meter in length, perhaps a bit larger than the ROM reconstruction.  By the 6th Dynasty stone vessel craftsmen are depicted squatting on the ground, suggesting the introduction of a revised, smaller type of drill.

Ancient Egyptian depictions of stone vessel manufacture do not show the use of an abrasive powder, such as quartz sand and water, which has been demonstrated by experimental work to be an effective method of drilling the interior of stone vessels. Nor do the depictions show what type of bit is being employed with the drill.  Experimental archaeology by Stephen Saraydar (Ethnoarchaeology 4 (2012) pp. 37-52) has shown that a vertically held crescent-shaped borer, such as shown in the ROM reconstruction, was able to make a c. 3 cm deep depression in a travertine block.  Centrifugal force caused the stone weights on the drill to fly outward, but Saraydar reports no problems with controlling the drill.  Throughout the drilling process Saraydar poured water on the travertine block which washed away the thick paste produced by the drill and kept the block wet.

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