The Wheel and Axle

Janice Upton | June 2nd, 2019

It should be fairly obvious to most people that the invention of the wheel is extremely important to transportation. Without it, it would have been much harder for people to start traveling great distances or to move a large number of goods at a time. Imagine how hard it would be to construct a building without the usage of wheels to get heavy materials to the job site. Even vehicles that don’t necessarily roll across the ground use wheels, such as the mechanism that pulls cable cars around, or spinning propellers and engines that are used for flight.

However, it has been a lot more important to civilization than just being a method of getting from point A to point B. Many early machines and devices like the potter’s wheel, the water wheel, and the grindstone are also predicated on the invention of the wheel and axle. Gears and all of the indescribable amount of inventions that use them also employ this technology, so it is found everywhere.

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It is believed that the wheel was invented towards the end of the Neolithic era, which took place about 12,000 years ago. The earliest applications seem to be in simple machines such as the aforementioned potter’s wheel, and evidence of them being used in vehicles wouldn’t occur until later in the Early Bronze Age, around 3100 BCE.

While the original wheels were much too heavy to be allow for faster travel, the invention of the spoked wheel allowed vehicles to be constructed lighter than they had ever been. This led to the creation of the chariot, as a solid wheel would have been too much of a load to pull for horses at high speeds. As time went on, they kept on getting lighter and sturdier, and are now used in almost all facets of life.

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