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About the Author:
Mr T Sampath Kumaran is a freelance writer. He regularly contributes
articles on Management, Business, Ancient Temples, and Temple
Architecture to many leading Dailies and Magazines. His articles are,
popular in The Young World section of THE HINDU
His e-books and articles on nature, and different cultures of people
around the world are educative and of special interest to the young.
He was associated in the production of two Documentary films on Nava
Tirupathi Temples, and Tirukkurungudi Temple in Tamilnadu.

Acknowledgement to:
Google for the inputs and photographs and for hosting my e-
- Tamarapu Sampath Kumaran

In todays world, technology is developing at an unprecedented rate. The

latest gadget today is tomorrows antique. Because of this rapid
development of technology, we often take things for granted. One of
these is the wheel. Look around, and you will see wheels everywhere, be
it as tyres, or in everyday machinery. The wheel has even been imbued
with symbolic meanings, most famously, perhaps, as a metaphor for the
never-ending cycle of life.

One may be tempted to think that the wheel is just a humble or even
primitive invention compared to some of the fancy gadgets that we have
today. Nevertheless, the wheel (specifically as a means of transportation)
was invented at a relatively late point of human history. The oldest
known wheel found in an archaeological excavation is from
Mesopotamia, and dates to around 3500 BC. This period was known as
the Bronze Age, which is a relatively late chapter in the story of the
development of human civilisation. By this time, human beings were
already planting crops, herding domesticated animals, and had some
form of social hierarchy.
One of the reasons why the wheel was invented only at this point in
history is since metal tools were needed to chisel fine-fitted holes and
axles. This leads to the next reason the wheel was not just a cylinder
rolling on its edge. It was a cylinder that was connected to a stable,
stationary platform. This wheel-axle concept was a stroke of genius, but
making it was a challenge. The ends of the axle, as well as the holes in
the center of the wheels had to be nearly perfectly smooth and round.
Failing to achieve this would result in too much friction between these
components, and the wheel would not turn. Although the axle had to fit
snugly in the holes of the wheels, they had to have enough room to allow
them to rotate freely. Given the complexity of the wheel-axle
combination, it may be unsurprising that the wheel was not initially
invented for transportation purposes. Instead, it has been claimed that
wheels were first used by potters.

Remember the 5,500-year-old wheel for

Mesopotamia? It seems that it was a potters wheel (the use of wheels
for pottery making may date even further back into the Neolithic). It
seems that the use of wheels for transportation only happened 300 years

The earliest wheels are believed to have been used for pottery making.
Although the worlds oldest wheel has been found in Mesopotamia, the
earliest images of wheeled carts were found in Poland and elsewhere in
the Eurasian steppes. Some have suggested that due to the immense
challenge that the invention of the wheel posed to mankind, it probably
happened only once, and spread from its place of origin to other parts of
the world. However, others believe it developed independently in
separate parts of the world at around the same time. For example,

The Ljubljana Marshes Wheel is a wooden wheel that

was found in the capital of Slovenia in 2002 and was dated to 3150 BC.
At present, the birthplace of the wheel is said to be either in
Mesopotamia or the Eurasian steppes. Although Mesopotamia has the
oldest known wheel, linguistic evidence is used to support the claim that
the wheel originated in the Eurasian steppes.

Although the wheel has revolutionised the way early human beings
travelled and transported goods from one place to another, the wheel
was not a perfect invention

For instance, camels were a much more efficient form of transportation
in the desert environment when compared to the wheel. It has also been
claimed that between the 2 nd and 6 th centuries A.D., the camel
supplanted the wheel as the primary mode of transport in the Middle
East and North Africa. Nevertheless, the wheel was still used for
domestic purposes, such as for irrigation, milling, and pottery making.
The wheel should be viewed as one of the great achievements of human
The English word Wheel comes from the old English word hweol,
hweogol, from Proto-Germanic *hwehwlan, Greek kklos,
and Sanskrit Chakra, the latter both meaning "circle" or "wheel".

The Half culture of 65005100 BCE is sometimes credited with the

earliest depiction of a wheeled vehicle, but this is doubtful as there is no
evidence of Halafians using either wheeled vehicles or even pottery
Precursors of wheels, known as "tournettes" or "slow wheels", were
known in the Middle East by the 5th millennium BCE (one of the
earliest examples was discovered at Tepe Pardis, Iran, and dated to
52004700 BCE). These were made of stone or clay and secured to the
ground with a peg in the center, but required effort to turn. True (freely-
spinning) potter's wheels were apparently in use in Mesopotamia by
3500 BCE and possibly as early as 4000 BCE, and the oldest surviving
example, which was found in Ur (modern day Iraq), dates to
approximately 3100 BCE.
The first evidence of wheeled vehicles appears in the second half of
the 4th millennium BCE, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia so the
question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle is still
The earliest well-dated depiction of a wheeled vehicle (here a wagon
four wheels, two axles) is on the Bromociclen pot, a c. 3500 3350 BCE
clay pot excavated in a Funnel beaker culture settlement in southern
The oldest securely dated real wheel-axle combination, that from Stare
Gmajne near Ljubljana in Slovenia (Ljubljana Marshes Wooden wheel)
is now dated in 2-limits to 33403030 BCE, the axle to 33603045
Two types of early Neolithic European wheel and axle are known;
a circumping type of wagon construction (the wheel and axle rotate
together, as in Ljubljana Marshes Wheel), and that of the Baden
culture in Hungary (axle does not rotate). They both are dated to c.
32003000 BCE.
In China, the wheel was certainly present with the adoption of the
chariot in c. 1200 BCE, although Barbieri-Low argues for earlier
Chinese wheeled vehicles, c. 2000 BC.
In Britain, a large wooden wheel, measuring about 1 m (3.3 ft.) in
diameter, was uncovered at the Must Farm site in East Anglia in 2016.
The specimen, dating from 1,100800 years BCE, represents the most
complete and earliest of its type found in Britain. The wheel's hub is also
present. A horse's spine found nearby suggests the wheel may have been
part of a horse-drawn cart. The wheel was found in a settlement built on
stilts over wetland, indicating that the settlement had some sort of link to
dry land.
Although they did not develop the wheel proper, the Olmec and certain
other American cultures seem to have approached it, as wheel-like
worked stones have been found on objects identified as children's toys
dating to about 1500 BC. It is thought that the primary obstacle to large-
scale development of the wheel in the Americas was the absence of
domesticated large animals which could be used to pull wheeled
carriages. The closest relative of cattle present in Americas in pre-
Columbian times, the American Bison, is difficult to domesticate and
was never domesticated by Native Americans; several horse species
existed until about 12,000 years ago, but ultimately became
extinct.[12] The only large animal that was domesticated in the Western
hemisphere, the llama, did not spread far beyond the Andes by the time
of the arrival of Columbus.
Nubians from after about 400 BCE used wheels for spinning pottery and
as water wheels. It is thought that Nubian waterwheels may have been
ox-driven. It is also known that Nubians used horse-drawn chariots
imported from Egypt.
The wheel was barely used, except for Ethiopia and Somalia, in Sub-
Saharan Africa well into the 19th century but this changed with the
arrival of the Europeans.

Solid wheels on a heavy Temple car, contrasted with the lighter wire
spoked wheels of the bicycles.

Early wheels were simple wooden disks with

a hole for the axle. Some of the earliest
wheels were made from horizontal slices of
tree trunks. Because of the uneven structure
of wood, a wheel made from a horizontal
slice of a tree trunk will tend to be inferior to
one made from rounded pieces of
longitudinal boards.
The spoked wheel was invented more recently, and allowed the
construction of lighter and swifter vehicles. In the Harappan civilization
of the Indus Valley and Northwestern India, we find toy-cart wheels
made of clay with lines which have been interpreted as spokes painted or
in relief, and a symbol interpreted as a spoked wheel in the script of the
seals, already in the second half of the 3rd millennium BCE. The earliest
known examples of wooden spoked wheels are in the context of
the Andronovo culture, dating to c. 2000 BCE. Soon after this, horse
cultures of the Caucuses region used horse-drawn spoked-wheel
war chariots for the greater part of three centuries. They moved deep
into the Greek peninsula where they joined with the existing
Mediterranean peoples
More modern descendants of the wheel include the propeller, the jet
engine, the flywheel and the turbine.
The wheel can also offer advantages in traversing irregular surfaces if
the wheel radius is sufficiently large compared to the irregularities.
The wheel alone is not a machine, but when attached to an axle in
conjunction with bearing, it forms the wheel and axle, one of the simple
machine. A driven wheel is an example of a wheel and axle. Note that
wheels pre-date driven wheels by about 6000 years, themselves an
evolution of using round logs as rollers to move a heavy loada
practice going back in pre-history so far, it has not been dated.

Throughout history, most inventions were inspired by the natural world.

The idea for the pitchfork and table fork came from forked sticks; the
airplane from gliding birds. But the wheel is one hundred percent homo
sapien innovation.

The tricky thing about the wheel is not conceiving of a cylinder rolling
on its edge. It's figuring out how to connect a stable, stationary platform
to that cylinder.

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