Picture of the Week

This week, we showcase a stone drill. That’s right, you guessed it, this type of stone tool is used to drill holes in things. Like knives and projectile points, drills are worked on both sides to create sharp edges and a narrow tip. Unlike other stone tools however, drills are very narrow and thick, and often are diamond shaped in cross-section. This design makes the drill stronger, and less likely to break. In Alberta, stone drills are often either long and straight, with a bulb or a “T” shaped base. More often than not, you find the broken end of drills, because they snapped off while in use. The stone drill bit would be attached to a long wood handle using sinew, rawhide, and pitch, and then spun to create the circular motion for drilling. This could be either done by hand, or using a small bow and string to spin the drill.

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Using a stone drill with a bow saw to drill a hole in a slate ulu.

We found this stone drill while working for Sundre Forest Products in 2012, in the Foothills west of Red Deer. The artifact is made from a brownish-gray chalcedony, and also shows evidence that it was heat treated. The drill has small “potlid” fractures, where irregular pieces of the stone popped off. This type of break happens when a stone is quickly heated and cooled.

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Author: Reid Graham

Reid J. Graham is an Archaeologist with Tree Time Services Inc. in Edmonton, where he carries out Historic Resources Impact Assessments for Forestry projects in Northern and Central Alberta. Reid is a recent graduate from the University of Alberta, where he completed a Master of Arts in Anthropology. In his thesis, Reid explored the relationships between the Besant Phase and the Sonota Complex, two interconnected Late Precontact cultures on the Northern Plains. He completed a Honours Degree in Anthropology at the University of Winnipeg in 2011, and has worked at archaeological projects in all over Western North America, including Upper Fort Gary in Winnipeg, the Quarry of the Ancestors north of Fort McMurry, and the Promontory Caves in Utah. Reid has also participated in numerous mitigation projects in Alberta and Ontario. His current research interests include Northern Plains archaeological research, GIS analysis, communal bison hunting, and inter-group relationships.

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