Using fibre and shells, stick navigation charts would indicate the location of islands, waves and currents. Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution

Long before smartphones and Google Maps, man picked up his first tool – a rock.

Click start to play today’s Word Search, where you can find different tools from the modern age.

It makes sense that the first multi-use tools would be rocks. The chopper, for instance, was a crude tool chipped from a kind of volcanic stone called nephelinite. Used in Tanzania around 1.85 million years ago, it served all kinds of purposes – from hunting to digging to building and butchering. It was indispensable.

Our idea of indispensable tools has changed a lot in the modern age. But consider these tools (that are not knives or spears), which our ancestors used to make life easier and more organised, and see how far humanity has come:

Cuneiform clay tablets

Cuneiform clay tablet Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution

Developed in around 3,200BC by Sumerian scribes in the ancient city-state of Uruk (modern-day Iraq), cuneiform was a form of writing using a reed stylus. Scribes would use present it as wedge-shaped indentations in clay tablets. The tradition of cuneiform lasted over 3,000 years.


An example of Native American (Lakota) census Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution

In 3800AD, the Babylonian empire took the first-known census. Officials counted livestock, and quantities of butter, honey, milk, and wool. In Native American culture, a pictorial census was common, where each person was drawn according to his name. China’s Han Dynasty is responsible for recording the oldest surviving census data in 2AD. The record showed a population of 57.7 million people living in 12.4 million households. Chengdu, the largest city, had a population of 282,000.

Stick navigation charts

Ancient seafarers from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean developed stick charts to get their bearings on the vast ocean. Using fibre and shells, they would indicate the location of islands, waves and currents. Navigators would memorise the charts before they made their journey.

Time balls

time ball
Time ball Image Credit: Smithsonian Institution

New York’s Times Square is known for its gigantic ball that drops at midnight on New Year’s Eve to mark the passage of another year. But in the past, time balls dropped more often. They were designed specifically to help seafarers calculate their longitude, which requires accurate timekeeping. The earliest time ball was installed in 1829 in south England – astronomers would measure the sun’s position at noon and drop the ball at precisely 1pm.

Which of these tools were you aware of? Play today’s Word Search and tell us at