In our incessant search for automotive origins, we have already discovered who invented the test drive, the alloy wheels, the sunroof, from which come the names of the bodies and even who caused the first traffic accidents. We came to think that there were no more questions to be asked when we came across the most obvious and existential of all (at least when it comes to cars): who invented the wheel?
Although, the wheel is more associated with vehicles (motorized or otherwise), it is quite likely that humankind has not evolved so quickly without it. Imagine all the machines and utensils that have their operation based on wheels: old mills, gears, pulleys, lathes and potters’ wheels, grinders, steam engines, locomotives, typographical presses, industrial conveyors. The wheel is everywhere and is an important part in the development of technology in the history of humanity, so it is easy to imagine that it has existed since the dawn of civilization, Isn’t it?
Only the story was not like that. Modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, in the place we now know as Africa, and adopted the current behavior about 50,000 years ago. However, the concept of wheel and axle was created just over 5,000 years ago – equivalent to “last year” in the history of Homo sapiens.
The reasons for such a delay are simple: the wheel does not exist in nature and humankind simply took time to need it.
Much of the inventions were inspired by man’s contact with nature, but the wheel was a concept developed solely by human experience. Obviously the humans of the time knew the concept of scrolling, as seen in circular stones or tree trunks. But this scrolling was useless without something that kept it stable. It would be like trying to balance on a ball and find it easier than walking or riding a camel.
It is now believed that the first wheels arose not only in one place, but at several points isolated from one another in the second half of the fourth millennium BC – between 3500 and 4000 BC.
Some archaeologists credit the invention of the wheel to the Cucuteni people, who lived in a territory that today belongs to Ukraine and to Romania. In excavations, potters’ wheels were found, built with transverse slices of tree trunks and a hole in the middle, plus figures of animals made of ceramic with wheels at the tips of the legs.
At that time the Sumerians, a civilization that inhabited Mesopotamia, also developed a series of devices that would result in the creation of the wheel and axle assembly.
Later, humanity had developed many more complex concepts and inventions, such as agriculture, sewing needles, weft fabrics, water pipes, ropes, boats and ships and even relatively complex musical instruments such as the flute or harp. We had also discovered how to tame and herd animals, who served us as transportation, food and labor power.
The business began to change with the need to carry heavy objects for men and animals. It was when the Sumerians realized that by supporting a heavy object on a log, it could be moved more easily. To continue the movement, it would be enough to place another log in front of the first and so on, until the load reaches the desired location. This was not very practical, and so the Sumerians eventually developed a sort of sleigh, their ends curved upward to facilitate sliding.
It worked well most of the time but except undulating or rocky terrain. The solution? Use the sled (sleigh) on the moving logs. The friction of the sled and the log resulted in a furrow in the latter. With this furrow the sledges held more firmly on the log, which expedited transportation.
Despite the ease, they still needed a lot of people to push the weight on the logs and reposition them in front of the sled. Faced with this problem, they began to remove the wood between the two furrows to make the logs lighter. And here the logs begin to take the form of wheels: they also began to use latches to keep the log spinning on its own axis, instead of rolling the sled over it. It was a matter of time before they evolved into an axle-free wheel drive system.
However, the earliest evidence of this system was not found in Mesopotamia, but in Poland, where archaeologists found a ceramic pot with the illustration of a two-axle four-wheel cart, possibly made around the year 3600 BC ). The earliest evidence of wheels in Mesopotamia dates back to the year 3500 BC – one hundred years later.
However, the first complete wheels with axles were found in Slovenia. They were made of oak and ash, measuring about 28 inches in diameter and were made around 3300 BC. They were very similar to this wheel below, made 200 years later and found in England in 2013:
The first evolution of the wheel as we know it today happened about 1,000 years after its creation: the raked wheels. Well, they were not exactly scratched, but the Egyptians discovered that it was possible to remove parts of the inner surface of the wheel to reduce the weight of their battle carriages, making them lighter, quicker and helping that enables civilization to lift its empire.
The advantage of the lighter wheels bring its manufacturing to a valuable skill. At that time – around the year 1000 BC the first wheel manufacturers appeared, which also evolved the concept using leather, wood and iron to make them more resilient and robust. The first wheels with outer metal rims were made by the Celts. This type of wheel became so efficient that it remained unchanged for almost 3,000 years!
They only evolved again in the late 18th century, around 1790, when modern warfare weapons (such as cast iron guns) became too heavy for the wooden wheels and they were made of cast iron. Ten years later, in 1802 the German GF Baur registered the patent for the first steel wheels with tensioned spokes, which were used on bicycles and also in the first cars.
Let’s Have A Look At This Brief Timeline Of Evolution Of Wheel
The world is round and this invention has almost six millennia of history
In Mesopotamia, It is more accepted that the invention of the first wheel took place with the first representation of a cart with wheels of solid wood
Almost simultaneous emergence of wheel took place in northern Europe, Asia Minor and China with spoked wheels, lighter than massive wheels. They are employed in carriages and carts
In Western Europe, the Celts begin to cover the wheels of their carriages with a metal “hood”, increasing their strength and durability
In Scotland, veterinarian and inventor John Dunlop develops the first chambered tires that he used on a bicycle
In France, industrialist Edouard Michelin adapts the invention of Dunlop for use in cars, which were beginning to emerge, even with wooden wheels
BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY
With the mass production of automobiles, the wheels are made of metal, with the development of light alloys and new materials, including carbon compounds