2

I caught a snippet from the president’s remarks. He was talking about the wheel and how it is older than the wall.

Is there historical fact to back such a statement? Or the other way around?

  • 6
    This has already been asked (and answered) over on Skeptics SE. – Steve Bird Jan 14 at 14:20
  • 4
    Taking something the president said as gospel.... ok... – Solar Mike Jan 14 at 19:02
  • 1
    No I do not even one time at a time @mikeP – Dr. Shmuel Jan 16 at 23:49
10

No, wheels are not older than walls.


Walls (as in city walls, designed to protect a group of people) have been discovered at Jericho, and dated to c 8000 BCE. The earliest walls of any kind that we have found so far are at Göbekli Tepe, and these have been dated to the 9th millennium BCE.


The earliest wheel that we have found was discovered in the city of Ur, and was dated c 3100 BCE, although it seems the Ljubljana Marshes Wheel is of approximately the same date, so we can't as yet make any specific attribution about where the wheel was first invented. In any event, the evidence shows that the invention of the wheel occurred much later than the first walls.


Edit - additional information from comments

According to the best evidence currently available, potter's wheels appear to have been developed slightly earlier than wheeled vehicles. And, to be fair to President Trump, it is by no means clear what type of wheel he was referring to. It is interesting that the earliest surviving potters wheels are also made from baked clay [Roger, Peter & Moorey, Stuart: Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence, Eisenbrauns, 1999, p146] - which has helped ensure their survival. Had they been made from organic materials, like wood, which are less likely to survive in archaeological contexts, our current understanding might have been very different.

Personally, I would not be at all surprised if future discoveries indicate that the invention of the potter's wheel and the invention of wheeled vehicles were, in fact, broadly contemporaneous. And, of course, their invention would still be nowhere near as old as walls.

  • 3
    Dumb technicality here, but potter's wheels are a little older, but still probably nowhere near as old as walls. – T.E.D. Jan 14 at 18:56
  • 3
    @T.E.D. True. And, to be fair, it is by no means clear what type of wheel President Trump was referring to. Interestingly, the earliest surviving potters wheels are also made from baked clay, which has helped ensure their survival. Had they been made from organic materials like wood our understanding might have been different. Personally, I would not be at all surprised if future discoveries indicate that the invention of the potter's wheel and the invention of wheeled vehicles were, in fact, broadly contemporaneous. And still nowhere near as old as walls. ;-) – sempaiscuba Jan 14 at 21:24
  • 1
    Interesting. My (very old) understanding was that the potter's wheels came first, but that makes sense. Gotta say I would not have expected that I'd learn something new out of this particular exercise in Kremlinology. – T.E.D. Jan 14 at 21:49
  • 4
    Also log rollers predate wheels, are organic and thus subject to fast deterioration, and hard to distinguish from general building materials. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 15 at 0:16
1

It could be argued the wheel predates the wall but only technically.

The dung beetle wheels their fodder for transport. Any caveman watching a rock rolling down a hill could see a working demonstration of a wheel. The complexity of the wheel was not conceiving of the circle or even the construction. The complexity of the wheel which made it so useful for transport was figuring out how to connect a stable, stationary platform to that moving cylinder. That is what makes the wheel useful and it's what took until 3500 B.C. to first invent. 3900 BC to first use that wheel for transportation. the Wheel found in Mesopotamia in 3500 B.C. was believed to be a potter's wheel.

3500 BC post dates the forming of cities by several thousand years.

Scientific America

The tricky thing about the wheel is not conceiving of a cylinder rolling on its edge. It's figuring out how to connect a stable, stationary platform to that cylinder

New contributor
Earl is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.