Why did man take so long to invent the wheel?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Captain Kremmen, May 29, 2013.

  1. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Actually, this is well understood.
    People did not invent the wheel for so long, because the wheel was useless to them.
    First they had to invent the road.
    Not the rough dirt track, but a reasonable even paved road, on which a wheel could run.
    Otherwise the careful step of beasts were always at an advantage.

    But there are other things which people took a long time to invent.
    And sometimes it is a puzzle to us why the obvious did not occur to them.
    First they had to invent the words.
    The whole of geometry is built upon a few concepts. Angle, Straight line. Circle. Measurement.
    Without the words, the mathematics that followed is impossible.
    Last edited: May 29, 2013
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  3. Balerion Banned Banned

    You...think paved roads existed before the wheel...?
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  5. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Actually, this has always struck me as a bit of a mischaracterisation. People had rollers at a very early stage. The key thing about a wheel, as opposed to a roller, is the presence of an axle and, above all, a BEARING.

    Making a bearing that would allow an axle to turn freely enough, and without catastrophic wear, is not trivial, if all you have is wood and stone. You need very smooth, cylindrical, hard-wearing surfaces, capable of taking high specific loading. But even more than this, I suspect that what originally enabled it was the discovery of lubrication - animal fat probably. But quite a concatenation of elements to bring together.

    (I do, though, have to declare an interest here, since I speak as someone who pursued a career in the Lubricants business for over 30 years.)
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    A wheel has to be made from a board (a vertical cross-section of a tree trunk or large limb) because you get longer fibers that way, which give it its strength. Boards could not be cut with the relatively thick and slightly curved flint blades of the Stone Age. They could cut a horizontal cross-section of a trunk and shave it into a more-or-less round shape, but it would not be strong enough to carry a heavy load; it would just collapse.

    Boards could only be cut (in significant quantity) with the much more precise metal blades of the Bronze Age. The technology of bronze metallurgy was invented roughly 3000BCE, and the wheel followed soon after.

    The road was not a necessary precursor to the wheel. Paths that had been used for centuries or longer were smooth enough for a slow-moving wagon pulled by the humans whose footsteps created the path in the first place.

    The potter's wheel was one of the first inventions after the Agricultural Revolution in 10,000BCE. In the Paleolithic Era, nomadic hunter-gatherers had no use for ceramics because it was too heavy and fragile to carry on their forays. We have no videos, but it's a no-brainer to assume that a few potter's wheels slipped off of their shafts and went rolling across many a Neolithic village, eliciting laughter and being chased by the dogs and children. It didn't take a rocket scientist (good thing since there weren't any!) to imagine moving stuff across the village the same way.

    So once boards were invented 7,000 years later, I'm sure one of the first things people tried making was a larger, lighter, more durable wheel.

    But then, of course, there's the issue of pulling those little carts. Even on level ground (which wasn't very common in those days), a human can't pull a cart any faster than he can run, and the more weight it's carrying, the slower he will run. Carts were only of limited usefulness before the domestication of draft animals.

    Animal husbandry, of course, was one of the twin technologies that comprised agriculture (farming was the other), and people kept tame animals for their meat and milk. When the wheel was invented, of course they tried hitching carts to goats, and this was a significant improvement in transportation technology. But the large, strong, fast-moving horse was not domesticated until the beginning of the Bronze Age, and it was the combination of the wheel and the horse that revolutionized civilization.

    As John Moore wrote, "Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization, we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it."

    The Olmecs had the misfortune of living in a place with no large herbivores. The biggest domesticated animal in North America was the turkey. (We only recently managed to tame the bison. Forget about the moose and the mountain goat!) The fact that they managed to build a civilization with only human musclepower is a testament to human obstinacy and ingenuity. The Olmecs actually invented toys with wheels, but they never bothered constructing larger ones.
  8. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Such a thought may well be rocket science, or its equivalent anyway.
    Take the estimation of the area of a circle.
    For you and me, and exchemist, and even Balerion, this would be very simple.
    I'm sure you could think of a way of doing it in 5 minutes.
    And in another 5 minutes, think of a different way.

    But we have the concepts required.
    If you have to invent the concepts, then it is the work of a Millennium.
  9. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Alot of this we all seem to want to project what we think into this. Sort of the like how jury people are not supposed to know about the case before listening to the evidence.

    We are predetermined to come up with the answers the op has stated with respect.

    I understand that thinking, but whether its right or wrong we have no way of knowing, that mankinds history was so linear.

    I would think like above the wheel was before the road.

    The fact that we have no idea of how ancient man thought, we cannot answer this, as we are projecting all the stuff we have learned into it.

    The best thing to do in answering things like this, is go and watch a documentary series called connections. The presenter i think does a good job of showing how totally unconnected events and accidents have driven alot of our discoveries. Like how a person may of made the wheel for something totally different at first, but someone else saw something else in it.

    We just do not know.

    Like for instance did art come before the wheel, or did someone see a drawing on a cave and see a wheel? That sort of thing.

    Alot of mankinds discoveries are by some lay person by accident, not truly knowing what he or she has found. Also remember to us the wheel means nout, but its a very complex tool.

    Also what if mankind was done before, but ancient man stumbled across an underground base or cave of knowledge. Its certainly possible, no one knows.
    Last edited: May 29, 2013
  10. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    I think man made the wheel after marriage was started to help move all of the women's junk from her cave into his!
  11. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Not predetermined, but difficult.
    Even things we now see as childishly simple,
    once required the mind of a genius.

    Take Thales method for measuring the height of a Pyramid.
    He figured out that if he poked a stick upright in the ground,
    and waited until the shadow was as long as the stick,
    then he could measure the shadow of the Pyramid,
    and so find its height.

    To think of that then, required genius.
    Now, with a little prompting, you would expect an intelligent 10 year old to come up with it.
    The child already has the words and concepts to make the reasoning easy.

    Ditto Archimedes principle.
  12. arauca Banned Banned

    He did not have any tools to cut wood or stone
  13. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

    I'm guessing that it was a woman that invented the wheel.
  14. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    What trouble has it caused?
  15. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    Or a rail road.

    My guess is that the first step was noticing that it's easier to skid something along a log than along the ground. Then it's easier to balance large objects on two skids. Then you drag the skids along with you (the travois). Eventually, you have the sledge and then you discover that the sledge works better on rollers and then you learn that captive rollers work better.

    I think you could do all that without calling a circle a circle.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Many advances in technology (literally "the creation and use of tools") did take quite a long time. Centuries or millennia. After copper and tin ore were discovered, and a way of melting the rocks to extract the metals, and a way of combining them to create the alloy of bronze, it took another millennium and a half before anybody figured out how to do the same thing with iron ore: simply a much hotter fire for smelting.

    Sure. Wheels are quite useful at low speeds on ground that is merely uneven but not actually bumpy.

    The oldest set of artist tools we have found goes back one hundred thousand years--this was a long time before we had even invented clothes, and very likely before we had invented language.

    The wheel only goes back five thousand years.

    Humans were creative and artistic long before they came even close to being modern. The oldest musical instruments are flutes made of mammoth tusks, from around 40KYA.

    This is not true. Flint blades and rock hammers were invented before our species even existed--or even our genus! The oldest flint tools go back two and a half million years. They were invented by Australopithecus garhi, the immediate ancestor of Homo erectus, who is our own immediate ancestor.
  17. arauca Banned Banned

    So what did they do with the flint tools beside scrape an other flint . Could they cut a piece of wood that would look like a wheel ? I doubt the American indian had a wheel . I believe the Maya indian have made pillars in a round shape and they had item made in a round shape
  18. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    And not that much hotter either.
    Wrought iron can be made in a good hot bonfire, so long as it allows air to draw through from the bottom.

    Why, when they had made tin and copper, did they not experiment with other ores?
    If they had, they would have succeeded in producing iron.
    It mustn't have occurred to them.

    I don't know whether the following is urban myth or not, but it makes a good story:

    It has a long and involved history. As you are probably aware, the Romans were famous for chariots. They built chariots that were just wide enough for a driver and a spear thrower. The Romans didn't waste materials so the design had a track of about 4' 81/2 ". Now when the Romans invaded Britain they obviously brought their chariots with them and they made ruts all over the country side. When local craftsmen started making chariots, it made sense to make them to the same dimensions. Forget about Roman roads, although they were good they still ended up rutted. After the Romans left, the people who made waggons and carts saw no reason to change anything, so the track for most carts was the same. Now, the first railways or tramways were horse drawn, so again the carts or trucks were made with a track of 4' 81/2". These simply evolved into railways over time so the gauge became what is known as "Standard Gauge". Brunel wanted to build the GWR with a gauge of 7' 1/4" but he was too late, by then too many railways had been built so he lost out and had to convert is wide gauge to standard. Its not a world wide standard, Spain and India for example have wider gauges.
    (An answer on Yahoo)
    Last edited: May 30, 2013
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    They used them as knives and spearheads for hunting. Then they used them to cut up the meat for cooking and eating. They scraped and cut the hides to make clothes and bags. They cut wood for fires.

    But as I mentioned earlier, one of the first things they did with their flint knives was to scrape the leftover meat off of the bones left by predators. This greatly increased the protein content of their diet. Brains use a lot of protein so this allowed each subsequent species to evolve a larger brain.

    As I noted in an earlier post, flint tools were not invented by Homo sapiens. They go back millions of years to an earlier species of hominid.

    I suppose they could cut a piece of wood that looked like a wheel, but it would not have been strong enough to function as a wheel, except in a toy. As I noted earlier, you can't make a wheel out of a cross-section of a trunk or branch, even though it looks sorta round, because you've cut all the fibers in the wood, leaving it with no tensile strength. It can't flex under pressure, it will just break apart. Wheels have to be cut from boards, which leave long fibers in the wood. And you can't cut a board with a flint blade. Well, maybe if you spent a whole year doing it very carefully, you might be able to cut one board.

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    You need thin, sharp, precise metal blades to cut boards. That's why the wheel could not be invented until the Bronze Age, which began around 3000BCE.

    You haven't been following the timeline in this discussion. Some of the eastern North American Indian tribes had just barely entered the Neolithic Era when the Christian destroyers arrived. They were growing crops, living in permanent villages, trading with each other, and if I'm not mistaken they had domesticated a few small animals. (Besides the dog, which was brought over from Asia by their ancestors.)

    But the Neolithic Era is still the Late Stone Age. Metallurgy had not yet been discovered so they were still limited to tools made of stone and wood. There was no way they could have invented the wheel.

    Again, you're just not keeping up with the discussion. Metallurgy was discovered in the New World at about the same time as it was in the Old World. Both the Olmecs in Mesoamerica and the ancestors of the Incas in South America had learned to smelt gold and copper. In fact evidence was recently discovered of copper mining in Michigan around 5000BCE, which is earlier than the Bronze Age in Eurasia. This information is difficult to correlate, since there is no evidence of these people actually building a Bronze Age civilization. In fact, as I noted above, all the tribes of North America north of the Rio Grande were still in the Early Stone Age or Late Stone Age when the Europeans arrived. It may just be one of the many sad cases of a community making a wonderful discovery, and then failing despite it, due to other reasons.

    Please try to keep up with the timeline. The Maya were the heirs of Olmec culture. They inherited all the culture and technology of the Olmecs. They had bronze tools for the precise working of stone. When Maya civilization began to decay, the Aztecs took over. Mexico was under their control when the Europeans arrived.

    Neither the Aztecs in Mesoamerica nor the Incas in South America discovered iron metallurgy, so they were no match for the Christian armies.

    Uh... the melting point of iron is 2800F/1500C. Copper melts at 2000F/1100C, tin at 450F/230C. That's a big difference.

    They were working gold and silver. They didn't have the Periodic Table as a reference, so they had no idea how many other metals the earth had to offer.

    People first discovered iron in meteorites, which were just lying on the ground.

    The "horse's ass" explanation for railroad gauges is, indeed, an urban legend.
  20. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Like i said above, most people need to watch the documentary called connections, to see how alot of discoveries by people were made.

    Nothing in history is as linear, as we want to believe it looking back.

    Alot of responses are falling into the trap of thinking stuff like this is linear and we progressed together at the same rate. Thats why this question is hard, especially with no written record.

    Personally i do not think we came from apes. But if humans today have mind control techs, why not see if a group of apes develop stuff after transmitting images into there minds, to see if it changes there perception.

    If you took a group of chimps, and transmitted images of a tool into the mind of the smartest one there, would it go onto develop that tool?
    Take a group of chimps under controlled conditions, and use the mind control techs today to transmit images into one of them, to see what response this does. Does it go to making tools, or does it stumble across art. What happens, when animals first get an idea?

    Thats the question, and humans have mind control techs today to transmit images into brains, so i cannot see why they cannot do this, to prove if apes or chimps can stumble into making tools.

    I personally think humans on earth were created, and we have been done over and over.

    Science today can prove that whether chimps or apes turned into humans, by stumbling across things like tools. Science can do this experiment today to prove if its possible that animals can turn into thinking beings.

    Like i say, i think we were created, and i do not believe apes or chimps became humans. But science has the techs today to prove if chimps can go onto think.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You gotta be joking! This is a place of science and scholarship and you're posting creationist crap?????

    Everyone on this thread probably just put you on IGNORE. Unfortunately, as a Moderator I'm not allowed to do that.

    Humans are not just descended from apes, we ARE apes! Specifically one of the species of "Great Apes," a clade which includes the orangutans, the two species of gorillas and the two species of chimpanzees. The Great Apes and the Lesser Apes (usually referred to as gibbons) make up the next-higher clade of all apes, which, along with the monkeys, tarsiers, lemurs, etc., make up the order of Primates. This order is subordinate to the class of Mammals, which is subordinate to the phylum of Chordates, which is subordinate to the kingdom of Animals. The other five kingdoms are plants, fungi, algae, bacteria and archaea. We're all related, and we have the DNA to prove it: humans share about 40% of the same DNA as a banana tree!

    You really need to go back to school. Chimpanzees have already invented tools. They cut sticks to use for digging for grubs. Several species of birds do the same thing. Sea otters very carefully choose a rock of exactly the right size and shape, which they carry on their bellies as they float around on their backs, and when they capture a shellfish they pound it on their own personal rock to break it open and get the meat.

    Other animals use their environment in other, equally clever ways. A bird was spotted very carefully setting his nuts down across a highway. Then when the light turned green all the cars ran over them and broke open the shells for him. When it turned red again, he went out and retrieved them.

    This is a place of science so we observe the scientific method. One of its cornerstones is the Rule of Laplace: "Extraordinary assertions must be supported by extraordinary evidence before we are obliged to treat them with respect."

    Creationists have absolutely ZERO evidence to support their UTTERLY RIDICULOUS assertion. Not just no "extraordinary evidence," but NO EVIDENCE AT ALL.

    So you'll have to excuse us while we wander off to participate in a more informed, scholarly discussion, among educated people, somewhere else.

    You're so poorly educated that you don't even know that chimpanzees ARE apes. Pan troglodytes, the "true" chimpanzee, and Pan paniscus, the Bonobo chimpanzee, are two of the six species of Greater Apes.

    They've been taught to communicate in American Sign Language. I'd say that answers the question definitively. But of course you don't keep up with the news so you don't know any of these facts.

    Please go back to your Bible School in Kentucky and leave us alone.
  22. arauca Banned Banned

    Why are you pushing people so hard . you are just a book keeper and now you pretend to be a great scientist . you are just a status claimer. Be humble that is what Judaism teaches you.
  23. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Yes but you get iron from iron oxide at a much lower temperature. c1250 Centigrade
    You don't need to melt the iron.
    Once you have the iron you can hammer it into shape.

    I think you can get wrought iron at an even lower temperature.
    I'm not sure what the difference is between that and standard iron.

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