In the June 1993 issue of Scientific American there was an article by Professor
Hans Ulrich Vogel on The Great Well of China. We're told that more than 2100
years ago the rulers of China first tried to monopolize salt production and trade
throughout their empire. Apparently about 80% of the Yuan dynasty's revenue in
the 14th century AD came from taxes on salt. The main source of this salt was from
evaporation of sea water. Early inland production of salt came from brine (a strong
solution of salt in water) which was obtained from dug shallow wells, called shaft
wells. The brine was boiled to reduce it to salt. The inland salt was profitable in
surrounding areas as the product was cheaper than the transported sea salt. The
dug wells grew deeper and more plentiful. If we are to believe the statistics given,
in 1132 AD officials registered more than 4,900 brine wells in Sichuan province:
In 1177 an official described some of the procedures. The terrain of mountain
valleys was inspected and exploratory holes dug to between 200 and 300 metres
down. If they were lucky enough to find a salty spring, after reinforcing the well
sides they lowered buffalo-hide bags attached to rope and let them fill with brine.
Then if 40 or more men laboured continuously to pull the bags from the well they
could drain most wells almost completely in about 12 hours. We're not told what
kind of sub-surface conditions were dug through, but they must have been
Apparently the recovery process was greatly refined over the passing centuries.
Here's a scroll painted in the 1750s:
The procedure is further described in the article. Dug wells were deepened by use
of drilled wells. The process was to build a wooden platform for an operator to
A heavy iron object, weighing about 200 pounds, looking something like a spade
or a shovel, was lowered down:
When the object touched bottom the operator through a system of leverage to
increase power, would, to quote Hans Vogel, "jump off" causing the heavy weight
to hammer the surface below it. The assistant on the ground would then rotate the
equipment so that for the next blow the position of the weight was slightly moved,
and so on. Of course you have to remove the debris from time to time, and the
Chinese ingeniously made use of the properties of bamboo for this.
First you pour water down to turn the rock etc. debris into a kind of soup called
a slurry. Next, bamboo is a very light straight-growing wood, really a member of the
grass family. It has a kind of pith inside the joints in its growth, which is very rapid,
sometimes 2 feet a day. You can remove the pith at will to provide lengths of pipe.
By placing a leather flap at the bottom, with a weight to hold it down and keep it
vertical, when lowered into the slurry, the flap would open. Jigging up and down
would gradually force the slurry into the pipe. Then it could be raised, held in
place by the closed flap.
Once a bed of salt was reached another property of bamboo was utilized. By
leaving the pith in place, but cutting a hole in the bamboo just below the next
section above the pith, a series of small buckets would be created. When lowered
with a weight at the bottom they would between them fill to the depth of the brine
and could be raised to the surface where they were emptied out and the liquid
evaporated off by heating to leave salt. As a further refinement they apparently
invented a device known as a 'jar,' first used in the 16th century AD to fish out drills
that got stuck in boreholes.
A British deep-rock drilling engineer once told me that 'over there' in England the
'old splash and bash' as he called that method of drilling, was in use until the
advent of steam engines to provide power for modern drill bits. This means the old
methods survived until the early-to-mid 19th century AD. The record depth in
Europe was apparently by a German engineer in 1842 AD: 535 metres, or 1756
feet down. But this article by Hans Vogel was really to say that whereas in the 16th
century AD the Sichuanese drilled as deep as 300 metres, their descendants
reached about 500 metres, and nearly 800 metres in the early 19th century. The
famous Xinhai well, constructed in 1835, reached the amazing depth of one
kilometer: 1,000 metres, or 3,282 feet. The explanation for this greater depth
seeking is that whereas the salinity or salt content of the brine was only 10% or
less in the shallower wells, the deeper wells, once brought in, could consistently
provide about twice the salinity. There was a further benefit from deep wells: they
provided natural gas which the Chinese made use of in their production process
for heating the brine. One reason given for greater depth of the Chinese wells is
that they used bamboo while the Europeans had to use rope.
Why I think this is important is because it tells us that as far apart as China and
Europe the rock drilling method that has come down to us is the 'splash and bash'
pounding method, with refinements for greater depth. It's both primitive and
tedious. The Chinese are credited with first inventing the use of paper, printing,
and what in English-speaking countries is called 'gunpowder,' although to their
credit the Chinese apparently used it for firecrackers and fireworks, not as a
propellant for cannon and musket balls in warfare. In Europe this new explosive
when imported put a virtual end to the feudal system and the independent power
of the barons, dukes, earls, viscounts, and the like, as their castles and the
battlements of their keeps could not withstand cannon fire, it being much more
powerful than the mediaeval trebuchet.
I suggest there is a conclusion to be drawn from this additional information. That
is, if the combined ingenuity and civilized mentality of both the Chinese and
Europeans were unable to invent a relatively convenient and efficient method of
drilling through rock before the invention of the internal combustion engine to drive
machinery to do the drilling for them, it seems unlikely that 3,500 years ago the
people of what we call Peru were able to do so. That explains why modern
scholars describe as 'club heads' what were in fact the ancient drill bits from the
Chicama valley. There is no archaeological evidence so far discovered and
published that I have found to show that the Cupisnique culture or society had any
kind of engines such as our internal combustion engines to drive drill bits.
The incontrovertible fact remains that these three bits we saw in chapter 10 are
drill bits, and an augur, to be placed above a bit to push the debris or slurry to the
surface. Further, to do all this the bit and augur must have been revolving at some
speed. We even have two kinds of bits, a drag bit for overburden and a button bit
for rock penetration. The state of the somewhat battered button bit attests to that,
with its broken shank and chipped buttons.
The net result is that modern scholars have no explanation for this anomaly. But
if we accept what ancient writers tell us, as quoted in my The Immortals (with
appropriate academic referencing), then this advanced technology is directly
attributable to the Immortals, the ancient gods and goddesses, who we're told were
physically present here in earlier times on this planet. It was the Immortals, we are
further told, who made civilized humans from what they found here, the 'beast
men,' and then gave them the means to create and operate civilized society, for,
we might add, the benefit of the Immortals, not necessarily the converted humans.
This scenario becomes more apparent in my From Chimps to Humans?, The
Obelisk, The Mysterious Cursus, and The Problem of Nazca. Once we accept this
hypothesis, backed up as it is by primary evidence, we have no problem with the
otherwise disparate evidence for ancient drilling rigs which we've come across in
ancient sites in Peru.
In my Is Our Civilization Dying? I suggested that instead of referring to Roman
civilization, Greek civilization, and so on, all these were societies in the same
civilization, as they traded, fought, and their leaders intermarried. I called them all societies
within the Mediterranean civilization as I named it. I also suggested that this
particular (dead) civilization was preceded by another (dead) civilization which I
called the Stone Civilization. I suggested it's the oldest of which we have any
knowledge. This is a long way back for us to attempt to enquire into, almost before
even Sumer in Mesopotamia, and ancient Egypt. But there are aspects to that
civilization, although we know almost nothing about it, which are of interest to us
here, and that's what we'll look at in the next chapter.