Ancient Impossible (2014) s01e06 Episode Script

Power Tools

Narrator: What incredible power tool did the ancient Egyptians use to create this mysterious cylinder known as Core 7? How that happens in granite, it almost seems impossible.
Narrator: How were they able to build instruments so precise they could create the greatest treasure of the ancient world? The work in this is awe-inspiring.
Narrator: How were they able to craft the world's first multi-tool? And it's staggering to think that it's almost 2,000 years old.
Narrator: And how did the ancient Chinese build a mega machine that would start the world's first industrial revolution? Monuments more colossal than our own, ancient super weapons as mighty as today's, technology so precise it defies reinvention.
The ancient world was not primitive.
Their marvels are so advanced, we still use them now.
Travel to a world closer than we imagine, an ancient age where nothing was impossible.
Behind all the incredible ancient monuments is something even more amazing- the tools that built them.
Today we possess extraordinary power tools that can slice into the hardest rocks, grind down the toughest metal, and carve into mountains.
But what of the ancient Egyptians? The monuments they left behind are awe-inspiring and have somehow been built from limestone, sandstone, and even granite.
Is it possible the ancients had tools more advanced than our own? Could the answer lie in this ancient, mysterious Egyptian artifact? It is known as Core 7.
Made of granite, it is beyond what we imagine.
Its very existence appears impossible to explain.
This might not be visually as titillating as one of the gold death masks or something encrusted in jewels, but from the point of view of being able to understand the technology of the ancient Egyptian culture, this is pure gold.
Narrator: Core 7 now resides 2,000 Miles from Egypt, in the petrie museum in London.
And it's one of the most remarkable objects in their vast collection.
This reveals more about ancient Egyptian technology than virtually anything we've seen.
Technologically, it reveals things that we would never have known without a sample like this.
This shows that they possessed the ability to do advanced technical material cutting really on a level that not only matches anything that we could do today but surpasses it and surpasses it in ways that we still can't explain.
Narrator: Experts have subjected Core 7 to the most detailed scientific investigation.
But all this does is raise more questions.
How could ancient Egyptians have possibly made this? It's a fairly unprepossessing looking object, but it's the "how" that is so intriguing.
It's actually an incredible feat and something that the Egyptians only achieved using techniques that are unknown to us.
Narrator: All we know for sure is where this miraculous object was discovered.
Core 7 was uncovered in 1881 by the archeologist flinders petrie in the khafre valley temple, near the foot of the pyramids of Giza.
It soon became clear that this was a unique find.
But what was it? Could the answers lie in a close study of the temple where it was found? Now around every archway, I find these sort of indentations where this is where the door would have joined right in here.
And there's a bit of a socket here, a round socket that could have just been made by bashing a rock into the granite.
These are very interesting, but on this site, there's another hole, a place where the door would have joined in that's even more intriguing.
Narrator: Could this mysterious hole be the place where Core 7 came from? You can see if you look up in there.
A tool clearly drilled out that hole.
In a lot of other door bolts, what we see is more of a kind of a ball joint, something that could have been just pounded out with a rock.
But this really seems to be drilled.
It's clearly been cut in by something quite cylindrical but how that happens in granite, I mean, is a mystery to me because this is such a hard stone, and the Egyptians really didn't have anything which could cut granite like that.
I mean, it almost seems impossible, how they cut this hole.
Core 7 was cut from a red granite lintel by the ancient Egyptians in khafre's valley temple to make a door pivot.
This is Core 7.
For the workmen who cut it, it was just rubbish to be thrown away.
But this rubbish is evidence of ancient technology people still think is impossible.
Narrator: To further investigate the amazing mystery that is Core 7, we have to look at the tools we know the Egyptians possessed.
This well-preserved wall painting may provide a vital clue to the tools of the Egyptians.
It depicts a man sawing with what appears to be a metal tool.
The hardest metal they had in any real quantity at that time was copper.
The stone used in these massive constructions is mainly sandstone and limestone.
Could copper tools have cut through these rocks to create the ancient monuments of Egypt? In a stone quarry in Somerset, England, we are going to put this to the test.
But how strong is copper in cutting stone? There's a scale of hardness going from 1 down to 10 which is Mohs hardness scale.
1 is talc, and 10 is diamonds.
Now, limestones and chalks and marbles are typically around about 3, 4, but copper is also about 3.
Narrator: Could a copper saw be just hard enough to cut through limestone? We are actually cutting a groove but at considerable loss of the copper.
So it's possible, just possible to use copper tools, chisels to cut limestone.
Narrator: But Core 7 is made of granite, one of the hardest rocks in the world.
Granite is made of quartz and feldspar, and both of those are very hard materials, and they're down at 7 on the Mohs scale, so it's impossible to take copper and cut quartz with it.
It's impossible, scientifically impossible.
Narrator: But the evidence of the tools of the ancients is in front of our eyes.
Core 7 was not the only granite object in Egypt.
The burial chambers and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Giza and even statues were made of granite.
The ancients had the power to carve granite structures.
But this doesn't explain how something as intricate as Core 7 was created.
One of the most obvious things about Core 7 is its spiral grooves.
We're incredibly fortunate that this was found by someone like petrie, someone who was curious, someone who's a scientist, someone for whom no detail was too trivial.
And for him, the grooves that were cut in here, the evidence of the type of technology that was possessed by this society.
Narrator: The mysterious cut marks scored onto its surface are evidence that a circular tool was used.
And a clue to what that tool might be comes from a wall painting from the tomb of Rekhmire.
It shows two men with what appears to be a copper-tipped bow drill.
But still, can such a tool really cut into granite? In a granite-cutting factory in England, we have given workmen a precise copy of the bow drill from the wall painting to see if they can cut a granite core of their own.
To help the soft copper drill bit cut into the granite, they have added grit to the base of the drill, and water as a lubricant.
Copper's a very soft metal.
It's the abrasive grit that we're gonna use to turn round and score the granite.
That's what will cut the granite.
We don't seem to be actually getting very far with it.
We maybe scored it, but I don't think we've gone very deep at all.
Ok, shall we stop? Let me have a look, pull it out.
Narrator: Eventually the bow drill did begin to make an impression on a block of granite.
But looking more closely at the original Core 7 shows that using a bow drill to cut a core is leading the investigation down a dead end.
So what's so impossible about Core 7? Look at these grooves.
They spiral around Core 7.
This is what you get from a modern drill, not a bow drill that goes back and forth.
This is the pattern you'd get from a continuous drill.
Whereas this saw-tooth pattern is what you would get from a back-and-forth drill.
Narrator: A drill that would replicate the continuous spiral cut marks of Core 7 is a drill like this.
This is a 50-millimeter core drill bit, diamond ring impregnated into a steel.
We use this for drilling holes in a variety of materials, but predominately this type is used for granite.
Narrator: A modern tool like this powered by electricity turns at 1,600 revolutions and cuts four inches of granite per minute.
Here's the granite core that the core drill has just drilled.
We can create this in four or five minutes.
Over 4,500 years ago the technology and the materials they would have had looks quite impossible to turn round and create the same sort of thing.
Narrator: The very existence of Core 7 suggests that somehow the Egyptians must have had a tool that at the very least matched this 21st-century power drill.
Narrator: Our world is filled with amazing power tools and machines.
Yet what incredible tools were the ancient Egyptians using more than 4,000 years ago? They were able to sculpt limestone, sandstone, and even granite into some of the most astonishing monuments on the planet.
What were the incredible tools that achieved these remarkable feats? We are on a journey to find out, and our search has led us to England and the mysterious artifact called Core 7.
This small granite cylinder is a mystery.
But how was it made? It seems to show that the ancient Egyptians had tools that were simply impossible.
In Hereford, England, we're going to try to get close to such a tool for the first time- a human-powered drill that can reproduce these remarkable cut marks.
So what I've done is to build a version of the hand-turned tube drill, but I've put it within a frame so that we can actually achieve a lot more pressure than would be available if just people were just simply leaning on it.
Narrator: The only way to make the copper drill bit cut into granite is to add grit.
Richard is adding emery, harder than the grit the Egyptians were thought to have used.
So really in a sense, this is one step on from the bow saw.
It's the same principle.
Narrator: The emery powder embeds itself into the copper metal, making it into a far more powerful cutting tool.
So with this windlass system it can either be rotated continuously in one direction, which of course would be necessary to produce a spiral.
Narrator: Despite this remarkable recreation, working vigorously for half an hour produces barely a mark.
To cut a hole into granite producing a cylinder like Core 7 now seems even more impossible.
Core 7 still remains an enigma.
We still haven't really fathomed the helical marks on the side of this core.
Narrator: And there is a further revelation.
An analysis of the distance between the grooves shows something truly astonishing.
One of the key diagnostics on analyzing a cut like this is to look at the rate of the cut as it advances through, how many threads per inch essentially have been created on here by the cutting tool.
And one of the easiest ways to count that is by simply taking a piece of cotton thread and wrapping it around inside the grooves.
And this is absolutely amazing because if we were to cut something like this with a modern tool, we would expect that it would take hundreds and hundreds of rotations of the drill to penetrate this amount.
Narrator: The space between the grooves shows us that the drill must have been pushed into the granite with even more force than today's most powerful tools are capable of.
The depth that the grooves are cut into the granite can tell us even more.
To be this deep suggests they used something like a diamond in a clockwise rotating drill.
There's no evidence, except this core, to suggest the ancient Egyptians had this technology.
Perhaps this plug of granite shouldn't exist, but however impossible it is, the ancient Egyptians made it.
To think that this was created perhaps 4,500 years ago using ancient Egyptian technology is incredible to us.
In fact, this is almost an impossible ancient object.
Narrator: It is so advanced that it raises the remarkable thought that maybe it has come from a place that defies understanding, beyond the abilities of humans.
Over the years there have been many wild speculations that aliens, for example, were responsible for making objects like this.
We don't need those extreme theories.
Narrator: Despite multiple tests, Core 7 refuses to give up any clues as to the design of the power tool that created it.
The experts believe the rational explanation behind it must simply be lost to history.
The ancient Egyptians were perfectly capable of skillfully producing stone work such as this.
And just 'cause we don't understand how it was made doesn't mean that we need to resort to wild speculation.
Narrator: Although we have no evidence of how Core 7 was drilled from granite, could the elusive and incredible tool that created it have been fitted with a bit embedded with diamond, the hardest material on earth? The Roman writer pliny the elder mentions a mysterious material called "Adamas," when describing tools for cutting the hardest rocks and stones.
Could Adamas really have been diamond? Perhaps it was.
But still, that was 2,500 thousand years after the Egyptians sculpted Core 7 from granite.
People have been looking at this for decades and still, there's no definitive answer.
Perhaps we'll never know.
Narrator: With so little solid evidence, it seems the ancient tool that produced this remarkable artifact must remain beyond our understanding.
Core 7 remains one of the most impossible mysteries of the ancient world.
Narrator: With huge power tools that match the strength of our own, the ancients were able to construct buildings that are memorials to their genius.
But how exactly did they do it? Their records, from temple paintings to the objects themselves continue to raise questions.
What tools did they possess? How were they able to use them to create objects of astonishing scale and beauty? At Cairo museum are housed some of the greatest treasures of the ancient world, amongst them the remarkable death mask of king Tutankhamen.
It was in 1922 that archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamen.
Sliding off the cover of this ancient sarcophagus, Carter laid eyes on an extraordinary object that had been hidden for over 3,000 years.
It is easy to be awestruck by the skill needed to manipulate solid gold into this extraordinary mask.
But skill is nothing without the tools to go with it.
To try to get close to seeing what tools were used, a unique experiment is undertaken.
In this sculptor's workshop in Wales in the UK, a remarkable recreation of the making of the famous death mask is underway.
The tools they used to produce this aren't that dissimilar to the kind of tools we use nowadays to work with metal.
They would have worked with bronze tools, but fundamentally, they were working with hammers and chisels and that's it, and just to a very, very fine degree.
Narrator: There is no written record of how the mask was made.
But it appears the craftsman would have to start by making an alabaster sculpture of Tutankhamen's face to work from.
It seems a sheet of metal would then be molded to the sculpture by gently tapping it.
So this process of molding the metal over the shape of the head can take a long time.
This is it after many hours' work, and you see we are beginning to see a much greater degree of definition.
Narrator: Pieces like this then need to be soldered together.
How would the Egyptians have managed this? It's a mystery.
So what we want to get is to this stage.
There's still roughness on it.
You can still see the joins.
The next stage now, we're then going to have to go over these with a hot iron.
Narrator: With heated tools, you can smooth the surface.
It's a hugely delicate process with no room for error.
But researchers wonder if the Egyptians used this hot-tool technique? The fact is we simply don't know.
The next process then is polishing it's essentially sandpaper and files and rasps to get the absolutely perfect mirrored finish that the Egyptians achieved.
Narrator: The craftsmen of the time didn't have metal files as we know them today.
They did have a kind of sandpaper made from sycamore bark.
To achieve this finish with the tools they had is astonishing.
You are humbled by this piece of artwork.
The work in this is literally awe-inspiring.
Narrator: The Egyptians clearly knew how to manipulate small tools to create objects of astonishing beauty.
Not only were tools used for great art, but the ancients were also able to create tools to use on themselves.
The sparse records left behind continually give us new clues.
This is an astonishing wall painting.
It seems to show ancient Egyptian eye surgery in action.
Incredibly, the ancients did have tools capable of surgical precision.
And this recent discovery is one of those tools.
From the Roman era, it is so similar to tools used today it seems almost impossible.
Incredibly, its job is to remove the cataract in the eye.
Cataracts are caused when you get a buildup of protein behind the lens in the human eye.
So you can imagine this is the lens of an eye, the cataracts build up behind this lens and stop the light from getting through clearly onto the retina.
So the result is that the individual would experience a kind of cloudiness impairing their vision.
Narrator: Throughout the ancient world, physicians used needles for intricate eye surgery.
In recent years, archaeologists have uncovered a range of Roman tools designed for this incredibly delicate operation.
So this is a Roman cataract needle.
It's an extraordinary precision instrument, beautifully made, effective and simple.
It is an absolutely fantastic instrument.
It is a treasure in its own right because of the information it brings us.
It's simple, but it's effective, and it's been in people's eyes.
Narrator: To cure a cataract, the ancients developed a technique known as couching.
Surgeons would expertly insert the needle into the back of the eye to cut away the cataract.
One slip could have caused permanent blindness.
Light floods back into the eyeball.
He's lost the focusing mechanism, not that he knew he had it, but it's a successful operation.
He can see much better than he saw before.
And let's not forget this is in the days before penicillin, before anesthetic, and yet they had the wherewithal to try and attempt to solve this problem.
Narrator: But the innovation didn't stop there.
On the bed of a river in Montbellet, France, archaeologists came upon an incredible find- a cache of needles that only began to reveal their secrets when x-rayed.
They were the next generation of medical implements whose design was 2,000 years ahead of their time.
Incredibly, they're remarkably similar to the tools used by eye surgeons today.
And the clue here is in the built-in suction tube.
So this modern-day cataract needle has been developed over many, many years.
During my surgery, this fine ultrasonic needle is taken and placed through the incision into the eye, and then the ultrasonic power is used to break up the cataract, and then it's also sucked up through the same needle and taken away.
Narrator: Incredibly, the Romans performed eye operations in just the same way, the needle being part of a hollow tube and the cataract being literally sucked up through this tube by the mouth of the doctor.
But then this technology was forgotten.
For nearly 2,000 years it seems we ignored the genius of the ancients and lost our way.
As we move through into the medieval ages, we then see surgeons using a very sharp knife.
A big cut was made right across the eye and then the lens was essentially squeezed out of the eye.
And since then, we've gone back to smaller and smaller and smaller incisions into the eye down to almost the same size as this needle would create into the eye.
To think that 2,000 years ago the Romans were using an instrument like this to remove cataracts is absolutely amazing.
Narrator: It's an astonishingly delicate construction, a needle within a tube, constructed with microscopic accuracy.
It seems impossible, but how might a tube so thin have been made? Something as important and delicate and precise as this would probably be the peak of their sort of level of construction.
The ancient engineers knew that heating and then cooling a metal changed its molecular structure to make it softer and easier to work.
It was incredibly sophisticated.
This level of precision probably wouldn't be seen again in Europe until much, much later, another thousand years until the early clock and instrument makers of the 14th and 15th century.
Narrator: It was a tool that was both beautiful and one that had to be made with astonishing precision.
It would be really important that this thing worked properly.
You're sticking this in somebody's eye, effectively.
It's got to be accurate.
It's got to work.
Narrator: The Romans created the perfect tool to save a person's sight, and yet we can never know why this technology was lost for nearly a thousand years.
But imagine what our world would have been like if it were not.
Narrator: The ancients didn't just produce power tools capable of tackling the construction of giant monuments.
They were ingenious enough to make tools that were capable of even the most delicate surgical operations.
And their superb craftsmanship, tools and technology even extend to something that we take for granted today, the pocket multi-tool.
At the Fitzwilliam museum, in Cambridge, England, archaeologist Mary-Ann Ochota is here to examine the only surviving example of its type, unearthed from a site in the Roman mediterranean.
This is an absolutely ingenious tool, and it's staggering to think that it's 1,800 years old.
This would have been cutting- edge, modern technology for a wealthy traveler to carry.
Narrator: The reason this tool exists today is because it was built to impress from a metal that could survive being buried for almost 2,000 years.
It's in fantastic condition because it's made of silver.
You might not be able to check in to the best hotel or find the best place to eat.
You need all the gadgets that you require with you.
This gives you a spoon, it gives you a fork, it gives you a knife, gives you a spike, a tiny spatula.
It means that you've got all those really useful functional items tucked away in your pocket but when you pull it out, it's made of silver.
This is no average utility knife.
Narrator: Almost 1,800 years before its reinvention in the west, the Roman multi-tool was a stunning example of the same craftsmanship that went into creating Roman surgical tools.
This solid silver reproduction shows the level of skill they possessed.
It did everything a modern multi-tool would do, but some would say better and more elegantly.
These tools, these multi-tools that were mass-produced became popular in the 1880s with soldiers as a really functional tool they could keep in their pocket that would enable them to prepare food in the field and also maintain their weapon.
The big difference is its Roman predecessor isn't just about function.
It's incredibly well-tooled.
It's incredibly beautifully engineered.
This is also about prestige, it's about eating well when you're on the road.
It's about being able to look after yourself, and it's also a little bit about showing off.
It just goes to show how ahead of their time the ancient Romans really were.
Narrator: Once again, the ancients created an impossibly modern tool.
Many believe no-one could possess tools as powerful as ours today.
But the first century a.
D.
Was the height of the Roman empire.
Could they have had tools just as advanced as our own? Their empire was littered with buildings built from marble.
But how did they do this? Maybe a clue can be found in Ephesus, on the coast of what is now Turkey.
This raw material was the making of Ephesus, which was second only to Rome in size.
A huge trading centre, its own buildings were sliced from the precious stone, marble, on a colossal scale.
This fabled city has been closely studied by archaeologist Darius Arya.
This is a place that was in close proximity to grand quarries of marble.
And this place had an appetite for marble.
For centuries and centuries all the way into the 6th and 7th centuries a.
D.
Narrator: The quarries of Ephesus produced enough marble to build the temple of Artemis, since lost to history and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
They even built a road of solid marble 2,500 feet long.
The temple was on this amazing road, as was a great theater which could hold 25,000 spectators.
But with simple tools like saws, it was a huge challenge to produce marble on such an industrial scale.
Well, it's a very laborious, tedious process because you've got two guys that are cutting blocks of stone.
Very long process, very labor- intensive.
Narrator: How could mere hand tools produce enough marble to build an empire? Here in Turkey is an intriguing clue.
Could this image, on a sarcophagus lid from the 3rd century a.
D.
, be a marble- cutting machine? Is it evidence of a water- powered tool that would be the driving force of industry for the next 2,000 years? Narrator: Steel and skyscrapers are how we build today.
But marble was the material of choice in the ancient world.
But the demand for marble to build the monuments was so great, how could workers with mere hand saws respond? The lid of a sarcophagus from the 3rd century a.
D.
Might show us the answer, the first evidence of a giant industrial saw.
This power tool is driven by something that looks like a modern water wheel.
If true, then remarkably, it's evidence of one of the first engines, something that has powered tools up to the beginning of the 20th century.
Engineer dick strawbridge has come to compare the ancient technology with this watermill in Hereford, England.
There's been a water wheel here for over 800 years.
It's a great way of capturing the energy for the water.
Further upstream, the water's at a high level, and then we've got a low level here.
As the water drops, it turns this huge, big wheel.
There's about a ton of water at 8 feet.
That's a massive amount of turning that it does.
Go back to Ephesus, and we're talking 1,500 years ago, and somebody said, "I've got a water wheel.
You know, I've got a problem.
I want to saw marble.
" Great thing about it- you get rid of all that back-breaking work.
You can actually cut marble on an industrial scale.
That would have given them such an advantage when it came to building, and building with marble is so beautiful.
The whole industry powered by water- what a great idea.
Narrator: Incredibly, they had the technology to do this in Ephesus 1,500 years ago with water wheels powering marble-cutting machines churning out marble from quarries across the city.
The wooden water wheels of Ephesus have since turned to dust, but there is evidence of them, if you know where to look.
Here we are at the beginning of the process.
What we have here is the part of the system where the water flows down and hits a water wheel.
And this is about 13 feet up.
And the water would come cascading down, hitting a water wheel in wood.
We don't have the water wheel, but we do have the slot in which it was placed.
Narrator: These water-powered marble-cutters built an empire.
But they had to evolve.
Ancient builders needed to adapt the tools to create the look of solid marble, but without the cost.
They can't just always have solid columns and solid big blocks of marble.
They need another solution.
Well, as early as the 4th century b.
C.
We're told that we have the invention of marble veneer- cutting big blocks of stone into thin marble slabs.
Here is an example of just how thin those panels are.
Just a few mere millimeters.
In this case here what you see is they've taken a block of stone, and they've cut it open and then they've mirrored it so you've got the same pattern appearing on both sides.
Narrator: The genius of the ancient engineers was to adapt their water-driven tools into power saws precise enough to cut solid marble into veneers less than half an inch thick.
What is the saw in this case? Sometimes we have reference to them being made out of metal.
In this case here the archaeologists say they were made of wood.
But ultimately, it's the relentless efficiency of the back and forth motion, and ultimately the estimates are that it was 12 times as efficient as two guys cutting the same block.
Narrator: Based on the evidence from Ephesus, we have built a reconstruction of this game-changing saw.
Steve wolf has come to see it in action.
This is exciting.
I've traveled a long way to see this.
It's 1/3 scale.
The original would have been nine feet tall, a colossal piece of equipment, very powerful for cutting stone.
Narrator: For possibly the first time in history, this tool uses two pairs of parallel metal saws to cut marble veneers from a solid block.
That means that we would have had four saw blades, each of them nine feet long, all of them simultaneously cutting away on here generating valuable marble to sell and saving a tremendous amount of labor in the process.
Narrator: Marble production had moved from sweat and muscle power using manual saws into a process using massive industrial power tools.
These were the power tools needed to keep up with a period of building that was exploding throughout the ancient world.
But an astonishing find in jerash in present-day Jordan shows how the innovation in power tools never slowed even as the Roman empire began to shrink.
In the temple of Artemis are two limestone drums, each with four identical parallel cuts.
What tool could have done this? This is what we believe it could have looked like A multi-bladed powerhouse to mass-produce veneers.
The power from the water wheel cranked a pair of giant saws, each connected to two sets of four blades that sliced their way through marble.
The water-driven marble saw is one of the most important power tools ever created, a tool that helped build and then survived beyond the mighty Roman empire.
Narrator: Modern foundries run power tools 24 hours a day, hammering out products for our modern industrial world.
But a thousand years ago in the east, China was also proving there was nothing that was beyond them.
In the 11th century, huge cities had begun to develop as centers for trade, industry and commerce.
A human swinging a hammer was never going to be enough.
The answer was to adopt a power tool that was so far ahead of its time, it is still used in the aerospace industry today.
In southeastern China, archaeologists have discovered a working example of this extraordinary 2,000-year-old tool.
The hydraulic trip hammer.
It used a water wheel and gravity to transform ancient agriculture.
Richard windley has built a model of this revolutionary power tool.
Now, in the shaft there are a number of pegs.
Each time one of these pegs hits one of these pivoted levers It trips.
Hence the name "trip hammer.
" The hammer drops under the weight of the hammer head, and that force is imported onto the grain which are in these cups.
The fact that this is going continuously, they could have even run 24 hours a day.
It's very, very effective.
Narrator: Each hammer could generate 100 pounds of force.
It meant that all eight hammers would operate with 800 pounds of force in a single rotation.
Suddenly one machine replaced ten workmen, working 24 hours a day.
The genius was in using a simple water wheel to turn a shaft to repeatedly drive the hammers.
It's a device which is actually turning rotary motion, and we're actually getting an up and down motion.
So we're transferring rotary into a sort of linear action.
So it was not until about the 14th and 15th century did drop hammers and trip hammers first appear.
The Chinese were way, way ahead in terms of their technology.
Narrator: At first, it was used to hammer wheat into flour.
But soon, it moved beyond agriculture and was the power tool that ignited the Chinese industrial revolution.
The ancient texts tell us that the mega tool was soon adapted from crushing grain to pounding metal in industrialized metal workshops.
Could that ancient Chinese tool have done the impossible and predated the power tools of the modern foundry by 2,000 years? Wolverhampton, England.
In this foundry, these tools are evidence that very little has changed.
The only real difference is that you have an electric motor on the top of this machine rather than a water wheel.
The falling weight is 2,000 lbs and we can drop it from 10 feet.
So that's 20,000 foot pounds in each blow.
If a normal person were to use a sledgehammer, this would produce at least 2,000 times what a sledgehammer would.
Without this piece of kit, there would be no airplanes flying.
There would be no cars or lorries on the road.
So it is absolutely fundamental to transport.
Narrator: 2,000 years ago, the Chinese power tool got there first.
And the genius of its design means that its modern counterpart is still punching out vital components that keep our world running today.
Tools we think of as modern invented thousands of years in the past, ancient tools to cut into the human eye, a tool from ancient Egypt so advanced, we are still unable to understand its genius.
Nothing was impossible for the ancient world.