Amazon.com Widgets
James Frey Official Website
Join the JAMES FREY mailing list
Click

Wheelmaker

from WIRED

Who Invented the Wheel? And How Did They Do It?

The wagon—and the wagon wheel—could not have been put together in stages. Either it works, or it doesn’t. And it enabled humans to spread rapidly into huge parts of the world.

by CODY CASSIDY

Woman's shadow cast on old wooden wheel
ILLUSTRATION: CASEY CHIN

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of years before the invention of the wheel, some unlucky hominin stepped on a loose rock or unstable log and—just before they cracked their skull—discovered that a round object reduces friction with the ground. 

The inevitability of this moment of clarity explains the ancient ubiquity of rollers, which are simply logs put underneath heavy objects. The Egyptians and the Mesopotamians used them to build their pyramids and roll their heavy equipment, and the Polynesians to move the stone moai statues on Easter Island. But rollers aren’t terribly efficient, because they have to be replaced as they roll forward, and even if they’re pinned underneath, friction makes them horribly difficult to move. The solution—and the stroke of brilliance—was the axle. Yet despite the roller’s antiquity, it doesn’t appear that anyone, anywhere, discovered the wheel and axle until an ingenious potter approximately 6,000 years ago.

[ click to continue reading at WIRED ]

Posted on April 4, 2021 by Editor

Filed under Culture Music Art | | No Comments »