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According to history books, the wheel was ‘invented’ in ancient Mesopotamia, around 3500 BCE and possibly as early as 4000 BCE. However, the oldest and largest wheel on Earth was discovered in 2002 in Slovenia. The wheel dates back around 5,300 years, but could possibly be even older.
If we take a look at our history books, well find that the invention of the wheel has been credited to the Late Neolithic and may have arisen together with a number of other technological advances that kickstarted the Bronze age.
However, many civilizations, including the Incas and the Aztecs, did not have wheeled vehicles.
The oldest graphic representations of the wheel come from ancient depictions in the city of Ur (which date back to around 3500 BC), in present-day Iraq, but no physical remains of the wheels have been found there.
From there, it is believed that the invention spread quickly across the rest of the world.
Ancient Sumeria, home place of the wheel?
It is believed that the ancient Sumerians introduced a number of technologies that had never before been seen in the world.
The wheel, say experts, was one such technology.
According to historians the ancient Halaf (Syria) culture of 6500–5100 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 wheels.
But have you ever wondered about where the oldest discovered wheel is located?
Despite the fact that the Sumerians are credited with the ‘invention’ of the wheel, the oldest wheen on Earth was not found in Mesopotamia, but in Europe.
The Ljubljana Marshes Wheel, the oldest and largest wheel discovered on Earth
In 2002, when archaeological excavations carried out in Slovenia revealed a wooden wheel whose radiocarbon dating revealed that it was between 5,100 and 5,350 years old, the scientific community was left awestruck.
This excavation performed near Ljubljana marked the discovery of what is now considered the oldest wheel in history.
It is believed that the oldest inhabitants settled in the region as early as 9,000 years ago; in the Mesolithic, they built temporary residences on isolated rocks in the marsh and on the fringe and they lived by hunting and gathering.
The discovery of the Slovenian wheel kickstarted a debate among archaeologists who wondered whether it was possible that the wheel had not been invented by the Sumerians, but by an ancient culture in Europe, or whether the wheel appeared simultaneously, on two locations, separated perhaps by a few hundred years?
The Age of the Ljubljana Marshes Wheel was obtained by studies performed by the VERA laboratory (Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator) in Vienna, which used measurements of the strata in the ground and the rings of trees in the area where it was found, as well as the radiocarbon dating.
The ancient wheel was discovered by a team of Slovene archeologists from the Ljubljana Institute of Archaeology, as part of the Research Center at the Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences, lead by Anton Velušček.
According to experts, this ancient wheel, discovered in 2002 in a marshy area near the Slovenian capital, is at least a century older than its counterparts found in Switzerland and Germany, which were considered until the discovery of the Slovenian wheel the oldest existing examples.
But in addition of being the oldest example on Earth, experts say that the importance of the Slovenian wheel resides in the fact that “in addition to its exceptional antiquity, this wheel and axle are incredibly technologically advanced”.
The wheel has a radius of 72 centimeters (28 in) and was made of ash wood.
Its 124-c124-centimeter-long) axle is made of oak.
According to experts, the axle was attached to the wheels with oak wood wedges, which meant that the axle rotated together with the wheels.
The wheel was made from a tree that grew in the vicinity of the pile dwellings and at the time of the wheel, construction was approximately 80 years old.
It is believed that this ancient wheel was most likely part of a prehistoric two-wheel cart – a pushcart and this technology shows that there was already a long tradition and experience in the development of wheels and axles in the region.
Featured Image Credit: Reddit.